Browser does not support script.

Postgraduate Course

Disability and Mental Health Social Work MA

This innovative MA has been genuinely co-designed, and will prepare you for a career as a change-making social worker.

Two students discuss their work.

Our Disability and Mental Health Social Work MA will provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to pursue a rewarding career in social work. This course has been created through a collaboration between professionals, academic experts, individuals with lived experience, and the wider community. Our sector leading course offers a different way of thinking about social work education.

Social Work England

York campus

  • Duration – 2 years full time
  • Start date – September 2024
  • School – School of Education, Language and Psychology

Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 honours degree

    Interview You will be invited to interview

Tuition fees

    UK 2023-24 £7,400 per year full time

    International 2023-24 N/A per year full time

Discover why York St John University is The One

Course overview

This MA has been co-designed with social work practitioners, people with lived experience of social work, and community groups representing various priorities and interests. The course is holistic, wide-ranging, and uniquely relevant to the authentic practice of social work as a result. A variety of strong practitioner and lived experience voices will be involved in delivering the course.

The course combines theory, skills practice, work-based placements, supervision and personal development opportunities. We will ensure that you understand your responsibilities as a social worker, and build your capacity to meet the professional standards set out in the British Association of Social Work (BASW) Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF).

The course curriculum is aligned to Social Work England's professional standards, and when you graduate you will be eligible to apply to register with them.

On your placements you will work with individual children and adults, as well as within family, multi-disciplinary and community settings.

As well as a broad understanding of social work with children and adults, this course highlights the experiences of disability and mental health across the life cycle and in the context of practice itself. These issues are central to all areas of social work practice, and you will graduate with a solid understanding of the complexities and challenges people are facing in our society, including social workers. This course aims to break down barriers between the concept of "us" and "them" in terms of social workers and service users, community and university.

Social work exists within a societal and political context which can directly impact on practice and organisational cultures. Throughout the course you will consider social work within this wider context. Our commitment to social justice mirrors the wider values of the University. We will challenge hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism as they manifest in social work practices. You will be encouraged to challenge oppression throughout your academic work, your placements and your future careers.

Course structure

How you will study

This course must be studied full time and will take  just over 2 years to complete.

In your first year you will:

  • Study 4 compulsory modules
  • Spend 70 days on placement. Placement days are consecutive and will be completed between August and December. 

You can find out which modules are available in each term in the Course Specifications.


Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will learn about the reality of working with children as a social worker. To prepare you for practice, you will learn about child development and how different childhood experiences, such as being in care or being disabled, can affect childhood experiences. The module will also cover the laws and legal framework that social workers are required to adhere to, as well as contextual safeguarding and multiagency working.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module will prepare you to work with 'working age' disabled adults (some of whom will have become disabled in adulthood), supporting people as they age and with end-of-life care. We will cover adult safeguarding and the legal frameworks you need to understand to practice as a social worker, including mental capacity law. You will also study models of disability and consider how they relate to lived experience, neurodivergence and advocacy.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will explore topics in both child and adult contexts through the lens of family life. This will include considering social contexts, structural inequalities, and family dynamics. You will gain an understanding of how these influence families, and how that in turn influences social work practices. Some of the topics you will study on this module include:

  • Parenting
  • Family group conferencing and community resources
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Navigating the benefits system
  • Immigration and leave to remain

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

In your first year you will also complete 20 professional skills days. These will help you develop a wide range of knowledge and skills associated with social work practice, multi-agency and partnership working, and the practicalities of carrying out social work in our society. Lectures and skills days will provide theory, space for reflection, and practical activities to prepare you for your first placement. You will learn about:

  • Theories and methods of social work
  • Values and ethics in social work
  • Power and status in social work practice

You will also consider how your own personal motivation, values and beliefs will influence your practice.

Credits: N/A

Compulsory module

Your first placement will be 70 days in a non-statutory setting. This could be in the charity or voluntary sector. It will encourage you to develop your skills of engaging with, assessing and understanding people. The focus of your learning will be on:

  • complex communication skills
  • empathy
  • cultural awareness
  • understanding social work within systems and contexts
  • accurate and timely record-keeping

You will experience a high level of interaction with people with lived experience of oppression or marginalisation.

In your second year you will:

  • Study 4 compulsory modules
  • Complete a Dissertation
  • Spend 100 days on placement. Placement days are consecutive and will be completed between April and September.

You can find out which modules are available in each term in the Course Specifications.


Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Building on your existing understanding of disability, on this module you will explore concepts including ableism, mental illness and care. Specifically focusing on children, you will learn about inclusion and exclusion within education, especially as it relates to disability. You will also reflect on disclosing disability and mental illness within social work.

Credits: 10

Compulsory module

Everyone lives within a social context. As a social worker, it is important for you to understand and reflect on the contexts you are working within. This module places social work within a social, cultural and political context. As well as understanding the inequalities and oppressions that people face, you will learn about the organisational context of social work.

Credits: 10

Compulsory module

Building on your knowledge of the social, cultural and political context of social work, this module will help you to understand the cultural context of trauma and move into a trauma-informed way of working. This includes considering family grief, community grief and historical grief within different groups of people. You will also reflect on compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, and how it can emerge in social work cultures.

Credits: 60

Compulsory module

This module will provide an opportunity to research a particular aspect of social work practice or theory in depth, connecting it to questions regarding disability and mental health. You will be supervised throughout the process by an academic member of staff with expertise in the topic you choose to focus on.

Credits: N/A

Compulsory module

Over the course of 10 skills days, you will get the chance to practise your skills and enhance your knowledge ready for your final statutory placement. These days will help you develop a wide range of knowledge and skills associated with social work practice, multi-agency and partnership working, and the practicalities of carrying out social work in our society. Some of the topics you will cover are:

  • Service user experiences of social work
  • Assessing risk in social work
  • Decision making, planning and reviewing cases
  • Critical reflection and analysis
  • Court skills

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Your second placement will include 100 days in a statutory setting. This could be services such as local authority children and adult teams, NHS teams, or third party providers. Through this you will:

  • Put your knowledge of law into practice
  • Experience the complexity, ethical dilemmas and organisational challenges facing social workers
  • Learn how to make decisions in more high-risk environments
  • Build your capacity in managing the fast pace, multi-agency working at the heart of social work practice

Practice Educators will provide individual supervisions throughout the placement which will help you to link theory with practice and ensure you are meeting professional standards.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

The course will be delivered full time over 2 years. This will include taught, practical and experiential learning. 

You will be expected to attend a minimum of 4 full days per week on the University campus during your first semester in each year. The course will extend across the usual University semesters, and standard University breaks will not apply. All 200 placement and skills days must be 100% attended in order to be eligible to register with Social Work England. Academic attendance that drops below 80% may result in you failing to meet the requirements for professional accreditation. 

Academic staff, social work professionals, and people with experience of social work will all be involved in the delivery of your lectures and seminars. Taught sessions include lectures, seminars and small group work. Your independent study will include reading and preparation for the seminars, as well as completing assessments.


In your first year you will complete 20 professional skills days in advance of your first placement, to support you in developing your professional capabilities. Your first placement consists of 70 days in a community social work setting. Regular group supervision sessions throughout the placement will ensure that you can share learning across the group and consider challenges collectively.

In your second year you will complete 10 professional skills days and will start your second placement at the end of semester 1. Your second placement will be 100 days in a statutory setting such as a Local Authority or the NHS.

From the beginning of your course, you will be expected to understand and behave in accordance with the BASW Code of Ethics for Social Work as well as the Social Work England Professional Standards. Breaches of these standards may call into question your Fitness to Practice as a social worker and you may not be eligible to apply to register as a qualified social worker as a result.


The assessments we use are designed to best suit the theoretical and practical content and will vary between modules. You will be provided with ongoing formative feedback during lecture and seminars.

The content of the assessments will ensure you are prepared to meet the appropriate stages of the BASW Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) with a focus on its 9 domains:

  • Professionalism
  • Values and ethics
  • Diversity
  • Rights and justice
  • Knowledge
  • Critical reflection
  • Intervention and skills
  • Contexts and organisations
  • Professional leadership

For each module you will be assessed through one or more of the following:

  • Essay
  • Exam
  • Report
  • Portfolio
  • Creative artefact
  • Public facing document
  • Presentation

We encourage you to reflect on your work as you progress though informal peer supervision, individual tutorials and use of a reflective journal.

Assessment of placements are undertaken by Practice Educators who are practising social workers. They will provide individual supervision throughout your placement to support you to link up theory and practice and ensure you are meeting the professional standards.


Entry requirements


Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 honours degree

    Interview You will be invited to interview

If you do not have a 2:1 BA or BSc (Hons) degree, but have extensive experience in a relevant setting, you could still be accepted onto the course. In this situation you may be asked to study an extra module, Access to Postgraduate Study, to help you get your academic writing skills to the standard required of postgraduate study.

You will also need:

  • A minimum of 6 months experience in a relevant setting
  • A satisfactory Medical Health Questionnaire
  • A satisfactory enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
  • A successful interview process
  • Satisfactory references 

Access to Postgraduate Study

10 credits | optional

This module provides an entry route if you would like to join the course but do not have an undergraduate degree. It is designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of a range of key academic study skills, including comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, reflection and evaluation. This will help prepare you for postgraduate level study. Material relevant to counselling and social work professions will be used and evaluated. You will be encouraged to extend your learning by sharing knowledge and resources within the group.

International students

Unfortunately this course is not available for international students. Discover the other courses we offer.



You will be asked to attend an interview for this course. 

The interview panel will be made up of 3 people who will be a mix of social workers, placement providers, people with lived experience, and academics. We use values-based recruitment to ensure prospective students share the values and behaviours align with those required by the social work profession.

Once you have applied, you will receive further information about your interview from our Admissions team.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

If you do not have traditional qualifications, you might be able to provide evidence of professional experience in the subject as an alternative way to meet the entry requirements. This is called Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Appropriate references and records of employment would need to be presented to support your case for admission. 

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and funding

UK 2024 entry

The tuition fee for January 2024 entry to this course is £14,800. This will be split across the 2 years, so you will pay £7,400 per year.

These costs apply to all UK, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

Postgraduate loans are available to help you pay for your master’s course. Find out more about funding your postgraduate studies.

Funding opportunities

Tuition fees

    UK 2023-24 £7,400 per year full time

    International 2023-24 N/A per year full time

Alumni Scholarships

If you are alumni of York St John University we have scholarships available to help you continue your studies.

Scholarships for alumni

Additional costs and financial support

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips. You will need to pay your own travel costs while on your 200 days of placement.

Accommodation and living costs

View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.


Social Work Bursaries are provided and administered by Student Services, part of the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). The number of bursary recipients for full-time courses is limited and there is no guarantee you will receive a bursary even if your application is accepted and you take up an offer of a place on this course. York St John University is able to nominate 6 students in the 2023/2024 academic year to NHSBSA who approve and administer bursary funding.  

You can find more information about social work bursaries on the NHS website.

Career outcomes

Where could Disability and Mental Health Social Work take you?

When you graduate from this course you will be eligible to apply to register with Social Work England and practise as a qualified social worker in any field of your choosing. Practitioners often have widely varied careers spanning many areas of work. 

Disability and mental health are visible in all areas of social work, and your enhanced knowledge in these areas will help you to support individuals and groups in an understanding and anti-oppressive way. Your knowledge of systemic issues will also provide you with the fundamental tools you will need to challenge the wider system and understand your role within it.

Social work can include work in:

  • Mental healthcare 
  • Youth justice 
  • Transitions 
  • Trauma 
  • Bereavement 
  • Foster care 
  • Adoption 
  • Working with refugees and asylum seekers
  • Substance misuse recovery 
  • Advocacy 
  • Housing and homelessness 
  • Schools 
  • Hospitals 
  • Prisons 
  • Community development 
  • Rehabilitating offenders 
  • Research  

Stand out from the crowd with postgraduate study.

Far fewer people have postgraduate degrees than undergraduate qualifications. This gives you something extra to set yourself apart in a competitive graduate job market. Those with a postgraduate qualification will earn an average of £8,000 a year more than those with only an undergraduate degree. (Department For Education Graduate Labour Market Report 2019)

Our careers service, LaunchPad, provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice

This support does not end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain the experience and confidence you need to succeed.

Apply for this course

For postgraduate degrees you must apply directly to York St John University using the links below. This will take you to the application form you need to fill out for this specific course.

To complete the online application form you will need to create login details.

Please contact 2 referees before submitting your application. An automated request for a reference will be emailed to them as soon as you submit. Your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place.

The deadline for applications is the 4 July. 

Apply now

Course highlights

More to explore

students looking at map on a desk

Discover postgraduate study

Campus buildings and gardens on Lord Mayors Walk

Why choose York St John?

Get in touch

Cookie Settings