Postgraduate Certificate Mental Health Social Work

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Key facts

  • Start date: August
  • Accreditation: Scottish Social Services Council
  • Application deadline: 10 June 2024
  • Study mode and duration: Part-time, August to June

Study with us

  • gain a qualification to contribute positively to the care and treatment of those experiencing mental disorder
  • undertake practice experience with your employing local authority 
  • benefit from the specialist input from guest lecturers 
  • prepares experienced and qualified social workers, registered with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to undertake the statutory role of Mental Health Officer (MHO)
  • only available to qualified social workers currently employed by local authorities
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Why this course?

The course trains social workers for the role of Mental Health Officer (MHO) in which they will be able to contribute positively to the 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. 

The role of MHO 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 Scottish Social Services Council published 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 course has been externally evaluated and assessed as producing MHOs who are competent to practice from the perspective of the local authorities who employ the candidates on completion of the award. Between 85 and 90% of all candidates complete the course within a 12-month period. On completion of the programme, 100% of candidates are appointed as MHO by their local authority.

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner

Interested in postgraduate study?

At the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, our friendly and knowledgeable team will be available to provide you with all the information you need to kick-start your postgraduate journey at the University of Strathclyde. Register for upcoming events below:

What you'll study

The course is taught over the period of an academic year, normally August to June. You’ll complete three modules. There are 30 days of teaching/contact time and you'll need to commit to a minimum of 600 hours of study, practice learning and assessment over the course of the year.

Work placement

An assessed period of practice is integral to all three modules. The assessed practice runs from September to December in Module 1 and January to May in Module 2 & 3. 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.

Delivery partnership

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 regulations.

The course is delivered by a partnership involving:

  • University of Strathclyde
  • 12 local authorities in the West of Scotland, represented by the Scottish Social Services Council Learning Network West

Open days & 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. Workshops for individual local authority areas are also available on request.

How to become a social worker

Find out more about the process of study, training, accreditation and registration as a social worker in the Scottish context.

How to become a social worker
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Course content

Semester 1 – Class 1: Mental Disorder, Mental Health Legislation & Human Rights

This module enables you to apply critical knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing and mental disorders.

You'll also be able to make a comprehensive assessment of complex need and manage risk within the relevant legislative and policy frameworks in collaboration with other disciplines and organisations. 

In addition, you'll be able to demonstrate ethical and professional practice in performing the role and task of an MHO within a multidisciplinary framework.

Semester 2 – Class 2: Capacity, Incapacity & the Law in Scotland

You'll apply critical knowledge and understanding of mental wellbeing and mental disorders to the potential outcomes for vulnerable people at risk of being subject to the powers of the relevant legislation with specific focus on the Adults With Incapacity Act 2000.

You'll apply lawful interpretations of capacity and incapacity evidence knowledge and address the rights of that individual and others involved in complex statutory processes within a multidisciplinary framework.

Semester 3: Working with individuals with a mental disorder & criminal proceedings

You'll have the opportunity to apply critical knowledge and understanding to MHO practice of working with mentally disordered offenders. You'll consider key legislation, predominantly the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995 and you'll learn about the powers and duties of the MHO in relation to supporting legislative processes in respect of the mentally disordered population group. 

Learning & teaching

You'll need to commit to a minimum of 600 hours of study, practice learning and assessment within an academic year. You'll attend for 30 days of direct teaching/contact time during term time and have agreed study time outwith term time to complete the course. Additional work and self-directed learning will be completed as directed. You’ll also be required to undertake programme-directed assessed practice learning in each module.

The course content is provided through a range of teaching approaches including direct learning, directed learning and independent learning as well as the practice experience.

Skills workshops are an integral part of the course content, preparing you for a complex role in practice. Much of the focus is on ensuring you're able to directly apply the knowledge from lectures and directed learning (specified reading) into practice.

You'll be linked with a personal tutor to guide your journey through the course and to provide support with pastoral issues.

Guest lectures

As a significant amount of the course relates to the powers and duties afforded to local authorities, the NHS and MHOs to provide care and treatment for those experiencing mental health problems, external specialists provide input to the course. These include:

  • medical staff, including psychiatrists and psychologists
  • lawyers
  • representative organisations such as the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and the Mental Health Tribunal Service
  • currently-practising MHOs who provide skills workshops

Service-users and carers also provide input, both as guest lecturers and by contributing to the design of the course content.


Each module will feature a combination of the following assessment elements:

  • practice assessment – report of competence to practice by practice assessor
  • assessment of knowledge and understanding – 2,000-word assignment (Module 1 and 3 only)
  • critical analysis of practice – 3,000-word assignment (Module 1 and 2 only)
  • Law Exam (Module 2 only)
  • Presentation task (Module 3 only)

You're required to pass each element to successfully complete the module.

In order to proceed to Module 2 of the award, you must successfully complete the assessed practice element of Module 1, and to proceed to Module 3, you must successfully complete the assessed practice element of Module 2. However, you may carry forward a fail of any of the academic assessments.

Candidates will be assessed in relation to the Module Learning Outcomes and the Scottish Social Services Council standards to be competently demonstrated as they relate to the specific module.

In addition, open-book exams on the law and less formal approaches to testing knowledge, for example, group quiz activities are used. Role-play is also used to provide insight into the formal tribunal hearing setting within which you'll practice following completion of the award.

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Entry requirements

Applicants must:


Be nominated by their employing local authority, be supported by their employing local authority and be provided with appropriate learning opportunities.


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.


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.


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 process

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
  • experience
  • 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.

Chat to a student ambassador

If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Humanities & Social Sciences student at the University of Strathclyde, a selection of our current students are here to help!

Our Unibuddy ambassadors can answer all the questions you might have about courses and studying at Strathclyde, along with offering insight into their experiences of life in Glasgow and Scotland.

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Fees & funding

All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise. All candidates on the course are directly funded by their local authority.

Fees may be subject to updates to maintain accuracy. Tuition fees will be notified in your offer letter.

All fees are in £ sterling, unless otherwise stated, and may be subject to revision.

Annual revision of fees

Students on programmes of study of more than one year (or studying standalone modules) should be aware that tuition fees are revised annually and may increase in subsequent years of study. Annual increases will generally reflect UK inflation rates and increases to programme delivery costs.

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England, Wales & Northern Ireland




Visa & immigration

International students may have associated visa and immigration costs. Please see student visa guidance for more information.

Please note: The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.

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Successful graduates from this programme will immediately be appointed as Mental Health Officers (MHOs) by their local authority, avoiding 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 qualified MHOs are in high demand across Scotland. Obtaining the award, therefore, enhances the employability of all graduates.

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Start date: Sep 2024

Mental Health Social Work

PG Certificate
Start date: Sep 2024

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Contact us

Prospective student enquiries

Contact a member of our team on LiveChat between 10am and 4pm (GMT)

Telephone: +44 (0) 141 444 8600

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