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AoC warns of a crisis in mental health support for young people and adults

14 December 2017

‘Year of mental health’ launched at the Association of Colleges Annual Conference Colleges have seen a massive increase of over 85%[i] in the mental health needs of students, according to Ian Ashman, the President of the Association of Colleges (AoC) as he announced a ‘year of mental health’ in colleges at the organisation’s Annual Conference in Birmingham today. Mr Ashman warns, “We are heading to a crisis point in mental health. It is no longer an issue about which we can play lip service. The Government has a moral, legal and economic obligation to make sure there is proper mental health support provided to everyone across the country.” During the year of mental health, AoC is encouraging colleges to “drive a step change in the level of support that mental health agencies provide to students, both young people and adults” as well as focusing on sharing good practice across colleges. This support is vital says Mr Ashman, as some students have told him they are “alive today because of the mental health support they received in college and the therapeutic value of their course”. As mental health needs increase, local services simply aren’t providing the level of support that students need. 77% of NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups have frozen or cut their child and adolescent mental health services or CAMHS budgets[ii]. In addition, while many colleges across the country work well with their local service providers, too many are also are ignored. National mental health guidance too often mentions schools but doesn’t consider the needs of colleges. During his term as AoC President, Mr Ashman said he will be calling on: The Department for Education and the Department of Health to partner with NHS England and Health Education England to promote good practice in engagement with colleges by local commissioners and service providers. Mental health service providers in every area to link with their local college, accept more students referred for support and to place health funded staff in every college. Every college to review their practice against the best in colleges and to engage with local mental health services. He concludes, “Colleges work for their communities. Let us stand together to smash the stigma of mental health. People with mental health issues are not alone and are being supported by colleges.” Ian’s comments were made as part of a wider speech which also emphasised that 'colleges work for everyone' with a critical role to play in meeting the needs of students of all ages, abilities and levels of study; in contributing to local community cohesion and meeting the skills needs of employers and the economy. He said: “The Government needs to back colleges with the funds they need and support them with the pathways and qualifications that employers and the economy require. Help colleges to access the support that students deserve. Do that and colleges will deliver, for everyone.” The AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition is taking place at the ICC in Birmingham from 15-17 November 2016. It is attended by college principals and FE experts. For more information visit [i] The Association of Colleges (AoC) mental health survey, June 2015. 85% of respondents (colleges)reported an increase in the mental health needs of students. [ii] Research by Young Minds.