Supported Further Education Provision for People with Long-Term Mental Health Needs: Findings from a Survey of Further Education Colleges and Primary Care Trusts across the South East of England

Article excerpt

Key words

supported education; mental health promotion; social inclusion; collaborative working


Aim: Government policy has highlighted the need for inclusive education for people with long-term mental health needs. As a starting point, the aim of this study was to assess the extent to which further education (FE) colleges in the south east of England provide supported education for people with mental health needs, and the extent to which these organizations collaborate with local NHS primary care trusts (PCTs). Also, to assess the potential numbers of people who might benefit from fully inclusive educational provision needs assessment, together with the potential healthcare cost savings.

Method: A survey was conducted of 33 multi-faculty FE colleges and 49 PCTs via structured telephone interviews with nominated representatives, in order to collect quantitative and qualitative data of the provision of supported education provision for people with mental health needs. The FE survey enquired whether they had provision for people with mental health needs, and if so, the details. The PCT survey gathered data on their caseload of standard and enhanced clients for the population covered, and the extent to which they were aware of the benefits of learning on mental health.

Results: Only 15 FE colleges (45%) had some form of provision for students with long-term mental health needs, and only six PCTs (12%) provided an educational link co-ordinator. FE colleges with existing provision averaged 70 students per college, against an attainable potential target of 130 students per college. Encouragingly, cohorts of students with mental health needs were reported to have levels of 'retention', 'achievement' and 'success' rates that were comparable with students from the general population on mainstream courses - e.g. expected rates of around 85% retention, 75% achievement (of those retained), 65% success (overall from enrolled to achieving), with some 5% progressing to university and 12% into employment. On present levels of FE recruitment, there is a potential net saving to the taxpayer of £13 million in mental healthcare costs (around 50%) and if recruitment increased to projected levels, then the potential net saving to the taxpayer would be £26 million. The substantial estimated savings to the health budget not only shows that supported education provision in FE is effective in promoting mental health, it also indicates the high level of its cost-effectiveness.

Conclusion: This research has implications for budget holders, health promotion staff and mental health teams working within a social model of health, and the collaborative use of resources to assist people recovering from or managing mental health difficulties in moving forward in their lives.



Recent government policy has stressed the importance of collaboration between the NHS and community organizations in the field of mental health services1 and has stressed the importance of inclusive education for people with mental health needs.2 Such policies and reports have provided the context for attempting to promote collaborative initiatives between further education (FE) colleges and primary care trusts (PCTs) to provide supported educational opportunities for people with long-term mental health needs.

The authors have an ambitious goal to promote FE/PCT joint initiatives throughout the south east region to create supportive environments and promote well-being3 by disseminating an existing and well-researched model of supported education for people with long-term mental health needs that has been running in East Kent for 10 years. A three-stage project has been planned4 and this present report describes the results of the first stage, which aimed to assess the current provision of supported education in FE colleges across the south east and the extent to which collaborative arrangements were in place with NHS trusts. …


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