A network for anyone with an interest in
adult education and mental health

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Welcome to MHFE

Welcome to the dedicated web page for year 2 of our Blackpool Adult Community and Family Learning Mental Health Pilot. 

Blackpool's year 2 community learning mental health project

Our Demography

Based on the overall measure of deprivation, Blackpool is now ranked as the most deprived of 326 Local Authority areas in England (6th in 2010)

  • We have 30.1% (9,425) of our children living in low income families
  • High levels of worklessness with approximately 20.6% of the working age population claiming out-of-work benefits, compared to a national level of 11.2%
  • There is a large stock of low cost private rented accommodation which contributes to high levels of population migration.
  • Life expectancy for males is the poorest in England at 74.3 years compared to 79.4 years.
  • Substance and alcohol misuse is considered high, with the rate of alcohol-related deaths the 2nd highest in England for males

Health and Wellbeing 

  • The life expectancy rate for males in Blackpool is 74 years, (10 years below this in the most 30% deprived areas) which is the lowest in the United Kingdom.  Females can expect a life span of 79 years, the 13th lowest in the UK.  The life expectancy of males within Bloomfield Ward is 51.4 years.

  • The main cause of all deaths in Blackpool for males is cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, overdoses and poisoning. For females this is cirrhosis of the liver, respiratory disease and lung cancer.  

  • Records show that Blackpool has the highest costs of local authorities attributable to alcohol and the 4th highest chronic liver disease.  The wards of Claremont, Bloomfield and TAB record high level of calls made to emergency services. Blackpool also ranks highest, 326 out of 326, for those claiming benefits as a result of alcohol.  The costs attributed to that in Blackpool are £715 per head of population, Lancashire £458 and UK £384; more than double the costs nationally.

  • All these have a negative impact on resident’s mental health and well being, with Blackpool having the lowest score for well being in Lancashire. Of those in treatment, 88% are aged 30+ and 68% are males. The average length of time in recovery services is 4.3 years.

  • There are more residents in Blackpool who suffer from long term mental health problems, 23.5 per 1000 population compared to 14.7 in Lancashire.  Suicide rates in Blackpool are also high. In Blackpool the rate is 23.7 per hundred thousand; England has 11.4, Fylde 10.8 and Wyre 13.7.  Blackpool has the highest rates of antidepressant use in England and in July 2012 an ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey rated Blackpool as 9th unhappiest place in England in terms of life satisfaction by residents. 

  • Blackpool therefore faces very serious challenges in terms of the most chaotic and complex residents.  The ACFL MH team is committed to improving the lives of its residents and this pilot project has allowed the team to trial a variety of approaches.

Progress So Far

During the second phase of the pilot new staff have been recruited; a full time project co-ordinator and two part-time learning advisors. These members of staff are now in place to offer support to tutors and the project manager. All staff have completed a level 2 in Mental Health awareness to ensure that they have a working knowledge and understanding of the needs of their learners.

Blackpool Adult Learning held a district wide promotional event to raise the profile of the project and courses. Professionals were invited from local services such as health, police, housing, social care from both the statutory and voluntary sector. A previous learner, who now wants to volunteer as an advocate for our project, gave a heart-warming speech about his personal journey with mental health issues and the benefits he gained from accessing our courses. Both sessions were attended by nearly 60 professionals from the local area, nearly 500 brochures were collected. The project will continue to keep promotional and networking with partners high on the projects agenda by continually attending talks and events with local services and community groups.

Over the 2 years f the project there has been approximately 400 learners from across the Blackpool and Fylde area. Once learners have engaged upon their course there has been good engagement and positive feedback – many learners wanting to continue their learning journey – see case study A. Blackpool now has a small team of 5 volunteers. They all become involved in the MHFE pilot as learners but have shown exceptional commitment, enthusiasm and dedication to the project during and after their courses. They are extremely skilled individuals who are offering to support the project in a variety of ways such as attending promotional events, class support and consultation regarding developments within the project. It is an asset for the project to be able to provide an enhanced learner experience through planning volunteer led sessions which both empowers the volunteer and current learners to see how people have progressed through the project.

The range of courses that we have developed has diversified in phase two, we have courses at Blackpool Zoo, the first course was in September 16 and was very successful, The second course is starting in February. We have courses running in partnership with Blackpool Music School and Blackpool Carers Centre. As the weather warms we have more gardening courses planned working in partnership with a local environmental charity. In the final term we are hoping to deliver some courses aimed at men in supporting them to access courses and services – Blackpool Adult Learning are being pivotal in a multi-agency approach to developing a Men in Sheds programme in the local area.

Lessons learned

Blackpool Adult Mental Health Pilot project continues to develop and evolve as the project progresses, with every week highlighting new opportunities, developments and lessons learned.

So far we have established that:

  • Tutors are working hard to embed the smart survey and discovering potential wheel model into their lessons to ensure that learners feel supported when completing the smart surveys.

  • Feedback from learners is positive, suggesting that they have received a high level of support and understanding and feel empowered to continue to maintain their learning independently.

  • Initial advice and guidance sessions are completed, where allowing, before the start of the course.

  • Tutors are continually developing ways to ensure that ILP’s utilise the wheel of potential.

  • Learners are more engaged when they have been advised of the range of skills and previous experience that tutors have, such as counselling, mental health nursing and substance misuse and homelessness.

  • Regular communication and the personal touch has assisted with re-engagement of courses where learner’s attendance has become a cause for concern.

  • Social Media have been developed to raise the profile of the project, this has not been as effective as would have been hoped due to Councils corporate limitations, however it has been successful in engaging current learners and highlighting awareness of services and local information amongst current and previous learners. (See Links below)

Two learners, now volunteers are actively working towards setting up a craft group for learners who get the ‘crafty bug’ to attend monthly to discuss and develop ideas. We are considering ways of supporting this groups and offering refresh sessions to those who attend.

Case Studies

Coming soon

What next?

  • Continue to promote the project and engage new learners and services, especially those from hard to reach groups.
  • Utilise social media more effectively

  • Continue to raise the profile of the project to reduce stigma of mental health through working collaboratively with services on projects such as men in sheds.

  • Support volunteers to develop themselves and a craft group.  

More information

See too what we did in year 1

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