A new fast-track scheme will attempt to ensure that more graduates enter social work in community mental health teams.
The Department of Health is backing this new initiative, with £10 million to be invested in the social work-focused scheme.
However, it must be noted that £10 million is not a huge amount of money in health terms, and there must be question marks regarding how successful it will be in attracting graduates.
And the number of graduates actually being targeted by the initiative could be considered pretty paltry.
The scheme run by charity Think Ahead aims to recruit 300 graduates by 2018 to work with nurses and psychiatrists.
Each graduate entering the scheme will be subjected to specialist training on supporting individuals and families with mental health problems.
And the good news for graduates entering the scheme is that they will be paid throughout the training course, and will qualify as social workers a year earlier than would be normal.
The scheme has already attracted 2,300 applicants, with 100 places to begin working in July. Funding will provide 200 further places by 2018.
Sarah Carr, who chairs the National Service User Network, indicated that the FastTrack program will have a significant influence on social work in the United Kingdom.
“Support from a social worker with the right skills and expertise can be transformational for people living with mental health problems. The programme gives graduates the skills to empower the individuals they work with – so that they can manage their mental health, stand up for their rights, and find their own paths towards personal recovery.”
The social worker profession has particularly struggled in recent years, with many vacancies not being filled satisfactorily, and continual caps in local government funding.
Social workers also face massive pressure from heavy workloads, and it is hoped that this fast-track scheme can ease the burden on the existing quotient of professionals.
Mental health minister Alistair Burt opined that social work is an extremely demanding and important profession, and hence hoped that the fast-track scheme would enable more people across the country to lead independent and fulfilling lives.
“This is a great initiative to attract the brightest and best into the profession,” Burt commented.
Each year in the Health and Social Care sector around 5% of workers suffer from an illness they believe to be work-related, while 2% of workers sustain a work-related injury.