Think Ahead, the fast-track training scheme for mental health social workers, is seeking an independent provider to evaluate its effectiveness.
The evaluation will examine the progress made by the first intake of students onto the two-year, Department of Health-funded programme, which starts in July this year, and will be focused on the quality of training provided and the standard of practice that results.
“We want to develop a full picture of the impact we’re having in every area of our work,” said Ella Joseph, chief executive of Think Ahead. “To help us do that, we’re building evaluation into the way the Think Ahead programme works.”
The evaluation has a budget of between £100,000 and £180,000, and will involve a mixture of surveys and data collection.
About Think Ahead
The Think Ahead programme is similar to the Frontline scheme for training children’s social workers and consists of three stages: six weeks of intensive summer training; a year-long work placement in a local authority or mental health trust leading to students qualifying as social workers; and an assessed and supported year in employment with the same employer, coupled with studying towards a master’s degree.
It is still going through the process of being approved by the Health and Care Professions Council to deliver qualifying social work training.
The evaluation team will need to produce interim reports on each stage before delivering a final report by the end of January 2019. The team will also produce quarterly reports for Think Ahead about the programme’s progress.
While it does not require it, the tender document says Think Ahead favors an evaluation that will compare the scheme’s effectiveness with other courses and routes into mental health social work.
The tender says Think Ahead considered making service user outcomes part of the evaluation but ruled this out on the grounds that a later evaluation would be more effective at assessing the impact of its work on people with mental health needs.
The deadline for organisations to express an interest in tendering for the project is 15 February and a decision on who will get the evaluation contract is due on 25 March. The universities of York and Central Lancashire, which are involved in delivering the Think Ahead programme, are prohibited from bidding for the tender.
Frontline evaluation due
The news comes head of the publication of the evaluation of Frontline, which is due in March. Despite the evaluation not having been published, the government announced an expansion of Frontline over the next five years, as part of wider social work reforms unveiled this month.
The evaluation of Frontline is being carried out by the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) based at Cardiff University, and is being led by Professor Jonathan Scourfield.