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BASW comment on Think Ahead scheme for mental health social workers

This week Think Ahead, a ‘fast-track’ scheme for training mental health social workers has been launched by care minister Norman Lamb and the IPPR.

While the programme is yet to be fine-tuned, the plan is for trainee mental health social workers to have up to 10 weeks of intensive classroom training followed by 12 months mixing ‘on-the-job’ training on a range of placements with further study, after which they will become a qualified social worker. In year two, graduates will hold a reduced caseload in a mental health team while working towards a masters’ degree in social work.

Underpinning the scheme is a report from the IPPR titled Meeting the Workforce Challenges in Mental Health Social Work.

Commenting on the launch, BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb said:

"Social workers in mental health settings undertake vital work with vulnerable adults that is rarely recognised by the wider public, and all too often not even by other professionals who require expert social work input. As such it is welcome that the Government is trying to encourage high quality individuals to enter this area of social work practice. 

"BASW has been involved in the development of the IPPR report, but remains concerned at the duplication of structures around social work education. We support the challenges presented by HCPC to the Frontline programme, an equivalent scheme for training children's social workers, before it can receive the regulator's support, and we recognise these will apply to Think Ahead as well.

"BASW will work with those behind Think Ahead to see if it can produce a model capable of training high quality social workers able to support the people who use mental health services. It is particularly important, however, that its implementation doesn't further diminish the availability of statutory placements for the degree courses on which we will continue to rely for producing the vast majority of social work graduates."