Tuesday 17-01-2017 - 16:00
Last week the Government responded to the recommendations set out by a key document on what modern mental health services should look like for the NHS in England 'The Five Year Forward View on Mental Health.'
The Five Year Forward View was launched in February 2016 by a mental health taskforce commissioned under the last Government. The report made 58 recommendations in total – all of them looking at how to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health and how to address mental health inequalities.
This week the Government accepted those recommendations in full and has announced additional plans to improve children’s and young people’s mental health. In particular, they have promised to:
- Publish a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health later this year to contain new proposals for both improving services across the wider system and increasing focus on preventative activity. This will cover young people aged up to 25 years old.
- Support schools, colleges and local NHS services to work more closely together
- Fund the provision of mental health first aid training for teachers in secondary school, aiming to have trained at least one teacher in every secondary school by 2019.
All of these initiatives we have welcomed. However, there is a real and urgent need to make sure that students in FE don’t lose out. So far we have been deeply disappointed by the lack of focus from the Department for Education in how they can support colleges to address student mental health problems, including how they can support colleges to develop more effective relationships with local mental health services. If the Government is really serious about tackling the mental health crisis amongst young people, it cannot afford to overlook the role colleges have to play in promoting mental wellbeing and supporting students who develop mental health problems.
At the same time we know that mental health provision in many colleges is patchy at best and non-existent at worst. The Association of Colleges (AoC) found that over 40 per cent of colleges had no full time counsellor or mental health support worker and 55 per cent had experienced cutbacks to the support they could offer over the past three years. It also found that many colleges struggle to have a good relationship with their local mental health services and only 19 per cent of colleges reported to always have ‘timely referrals’ of their students to primary and secondary services outside the college. We also know that many colleges do not have clear policies on how they will promote mental wellbeing across their institution while many teachers do not have access to relevant mental health training in order to be able to support their students.
With the mental health support needs of students in colleges greater than ever, there has never been a more important time to discuss what mental health provision in FE should look like. We want to know where good practice is being developed. What are the barriers to providing excellent mental health support? How does your college support students who have mental health problems? What is the role of student’s unions and senior leadership in promoting student mental health and addressing student mental health problems?
These are just some of the discussions we will be having at our roundtable on student mental health in FE on 3 February 2017. The roundtable will be held at the NUS’ office in London (Macadam House, 275 Gray’s Inn Road) between 10am - 4pm.
If you want to shape how we move forward in creating a further education system which can truly meet the mental health needs of its students, join us! You can attend by getting in touch with Sally Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing you there!
James and Shakira