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Why the NOCN Group Mental Health and Wellbeing Award is more important than ever.

1st September 2022


Graham Hasting-Evans, CEO NOCN Group

Our Further Education colleges and Independent Training Providers do extraordinary work, every year, teaching knowledge, skills and behaviours, and providing life chances to thousands of young people and adults.

It is also increasingly evident that they play a vital support role, creating a much needed first responder service for learners, particularly in mental health support. AoC’s research into mental health in colleges (AoC, 2021) reported increasing numbers of students with diagnosed mental health conditions, coupled with a significant increase in those with undiagnosed mental health difficulties.

And the cost-of-living crisis is making matters worse. Over half of UK adults report anxiousness as a result of the higher prices, and one in five feel unable to cope (Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 2022). To add to this pressure, people are 3.5 times more likely to be in debt if they have mental health problems, as living with mental health makes employment so much more challenging (Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, 2022).

So, preventing the spiral down into poverty from mental health crises is a national challenge and our colleges are increasingly being asked to assist.

This is not an entirely new problem, with mental health problems on the rise in young people since 2014 (Resolution Foundation, 2022). Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic this has been amplified, with youth mental health referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) at the highest level since the measure began (Young Minds, 2022).

Yet it is increasingly clear that good mental health has never been more important to a young person’s future, with evidence showing that poor mental health can adversely affect education and employment outcomes. Trends of increasing economic inactivity amongst young people have been shown to be closely correlated with problems in mental health (Resolution Foundation, 2022).

It is widely reported that early intervention can make a big difference, but although one in six young people were identified as having a mental health problem in summer 2021, only one in three actually received NHS care and treatment (Young Minds, 2022).

Filling the gap in mental health services is a major issue for colleges, this year more than most. AoC’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter and Resource Pack was developed to help address the challenge, with regular briefings to highlight resources and key policy initiatives (AoC, 2022). With subject matter covering everything from suicide prevention, social and financial support, and managing anxiety, this adds to the resources available for students and college staff.

Increasing numbers of qualifications in Mental Health and Wellbeing are also available for students and colleges, such as the NOCN Group Mental Health and Wellbeing qualifications. These add to the portfolio of tools needed to fill the gap, with four in ten colleges requesting staff training and resources in the AoC survey (AoC, 2021).

The efforts that colleges make on an ongoing basis is extraordinary and the NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing was developed to shine a light on this. One of AoC’s prestigious Beacon Awards, the applications have always been a showcase of the work that the college teams do on a daily basis to support the mental health and wellbeing of their students and staff.

Graham Hasting-Evans, Chief Executive NOCN Group said: “At NOCN Group, we are very aware of the vital role played by colleges and trainers in supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing, and with the cost-of-living crisis adding significant pressure to staff and students, their work here will be even more challenging.

We have committed to sponsoring the NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing to celebrate all the amazing work that colleges do in this area. With the applications open for the 2022/23 Awards until 3rd October, we are really looking forward to understanding the challenge that colleges have faced over the past year, how they have coped with these and celebrating their achievements.”

Richard Caulfield, AoC National Lead Mental Health said: “Every day, up and down the country, colleges are working hard to ensure that they support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff and students. They have shown this commitment with 200 now signed up to the AoC Mental Health and Wellbeing Charter. I am delighted that NOCN continue to support the Beacon Award and allow us to recognise that great work and celebrate the work on this agenda. I hope to see many more applications this year, meeting the Beacon standard is an achievement in itself and I look forward to seeing more outstanding work over the coming months”.


AoC. (2021). Mental Health and Colleges. Association of Colleges.

AoC. (2022, April). AoC and Mental Health. Retrieved from Association of Colleges:

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. (2022, June). Policy Note Number 23. Retrieved from Money and Mental Health: https://www.moneyandmentalheal...

Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. (2022). The State We're In. London: Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

Resolution Foundation. (2022, June). Not working - exploring changing trends in youth worklessness in the UK from the 1990s to the Covid-19 pandemic. London: Resolution Foundation.

Young Minds. (2022). Mental Health Statistics. Retrieved from Young Minds:

Young Minds. (2022). Record number of under 18s referred for mental health treatment. Retrieved from Young minds: