All colleges should receive specialist resources for college-based mental health advisers and staff mental health training to tackle issues at source and reduce future costs to the health services and society.
Colleges have seen a big increase in demand for mental health support from their students at a time when 77% of NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups have frozen or reduced support for child and adolescent support and when national guidance frequently references schools and not colleges. There is more that institutions can do to improve their own practice but it is also necessary for CAHMS services in every area to link with colleges, to accept more students referred for support and to place staff in colleges to tackle issues at source.
As a minimum, funding should be made available by the NHS to college staff working in counselling and welfare, in order to continuously develop the skill base within colleges. In the longer-term, mental health service providers should place co-funded staff in every college, as an efficient and cost effective way of delivering their service.
There should be a national strategy for promoting wellbeing for young people up to the age of 25, which is jointly owned by the Department of Health (DoH), Department for Education (DfE) and NHS. This should identify a clear target for the proportion of departmental and NHS budgets that will be used to support implementation of the strategy and that actual spending is monitored against these targets. The Government should ensure that a proportion of these resources are aimed at ‘upstream’ providers of wellbeing services, such as schools, colleges and youth services, with the aim of promoting wellbeing and preventing the emergence of mental health issues.