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Mental Health Social Work (PgCert)

Course Description

Why this course?

The PGCert is only available to qualified social workers currently employed by local authorities.

It prepares experienced and qualified social workers, registered with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to undertake the statutory role of Mental Health Officer (MHO).

In undertaking the role of MHO, candidates are able to contribute positively to care and treatment of those experiencing mental disorder by ensuring an approach that recognises the impact of social as well as medical circumstances on their lives.

See the website https://www.strath.ac.uk/courses/postgraduatetaught/mentalhealthsocialwork/

Key aim

The purpose is to train social workers for the role of MHO.

This is as defined in Section 32 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, and as qualified by the direction of the Scottish Ministers (Requirements for appointment as Mental Health Officers) Direction (January 2009).

In 2007, the SSSC published a new set of standards and practice competencies for MHO training. This stated that the certificate must be:
- provided by a university, within a programme provider partnership
- delivered at SCQF Level 11, which equates with Masters level
- be approved by the SSSC as a specialist course

The delivery partnership

A partnership was established to develop and deliver the new Postgraduate Certificate in Mental Health Social Work Award. It involves:
- the University of Strathclyde
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- 13 local authorities in the West of Scotland, represented by the Scottish Social Services Council Learning Network West

The University of Strathclyde is the administering university for the award.
You’ll be registered with us for the duration of the course, and will be subject to our rules and requirements.

You’ll study

The course is taught over the period of an academic year, normally August to June. You’ll complete two modules.

Work placement

An assessed period of practice is integral to each of the two modules on this course. The assessed practice runs through each module and runs from September to December in Module 1 and February to May in Module 2. The practice experience can only be undertaken in the candidates’ employing local authority supervised by a suitably qualified member of staff (Practice Assessor), supported by the course team.

Course awards

The course has been externally evaluated and assessed as producing Mental Health Officers who are competent to practice from the perspective of the local authorities who employ the candidates on completion of the award. In addition, the candidates, despite the intensity of the workload, praised the experience of undertaking the course. The course is the only MHO award in Scotland where recruitment remains high.

Open days and events

Workshops to prepare candidates for applying to the programme are provided in January each year. This includes an overview of the programme as well as a detailed explanation of what an application for the programme should contain. Information and selection handbooks are circulated to all local authorities in December each year to prepare candidates for the event.

Entry requirements

- Applicants must:
1. Be nominated by their employing local authority, be supported by their employing local authority and be provided with appropriate learning opportunities.

2. Hold a professional social work qualification recognised by SSSC. These include:
- BA (Hons) Social Work
- Diploma in Social Work (DipSW)
- Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) together with its predecessor qualifications
- Certificate in Social Service (CSS)

If you trained abroad, a letter of comparability with the CQSW or a letter of verification issued by SSSC (or another registering Council in the UK) will be required.

3. Normally have a minimum of two years post-qualifying experience. You should be able to demonstrate that you've improved and extended the level of competence acquired when you qualified.

4. Satisfy the programme provider that you have the capacity to achieve the Mental Health Officer standards, that you can be competently demonstrated as eligible to be appointed as a Mental Health Officer, and can achieve the award at SCQF Level 11 by:
- critically reviewing your professional development since qualifying as a social worker. This should include issues of effective communication with adults who have individual communication support needs, and working with professional tensions, challenges and conflicts. Also included should be evidence from workload of challenging discrimination and demonstrating an understanding of what's meant by this

- analysing interest in, and motivation for, undertaking mental health work including the extensive networking and collaborative practice involved

- showing developed skills in empowering clients. This should be particularly in relation to developing their understanding of their rights to legal support and advocacy, and their views about how their needs may be more effectively met through complex decision making processes

- exploring current awareness of the Mental Health Officer role, the complexity of the power/control issues involved and how you would use Mental Health Officer training in your current work setting

Selection for the programme is a collaborative process across the provider partnership and consists of:
- application
- interview (if applicable)
- selection decision phases

These will verify your:
- eligibility in relation to registration as a social worker with the SSSC
- preparedness and capacity for the specialist role
- eligibility for the programme of study within the universities

The process will also provide feedback to you and your agency about any further preparation or experience necessary before the programme starts.

Final decision on acceptance to the course within the parameters of the minimum standards described lies with the Joint Course Management Committee.


Successful graduates from this programme will immediately be appointed as Mental Health Officers (MHOs) by their local authority, negating the requirement to seek employment as an MHO.

This appointment can lead candidates into promoted posts, eg senior practitioner and management roles. As the role of the MHO is a statutory requirement for local authorities, graduates become members of a small but essential workforce that aims to promote the rights of people with mental disorders as well as ensuring appropriate access to treatment when required.

The MHO workforce is currently under resourced and, as such, qualified MHOs are in high demand across Scotland, obtaining the award, therefore, enhances the employability of all graduates.

Visit the Mental Health Social Work (PgCert) page on the University of Strathclyde website for more details!

Entry Requirements

See course description

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