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Morley College- Connect and Discover Phase-1 (2015/16)

A DfE Community Learning | Mental Health Research site (2015/17)

Southwark's demography

Southwark is the 41st most deprived local authority in England, and the 12th most deprived in London.  It is the third most densely populated inner London borough, and the 9th most densely populated local authority in England and Wales. Whilst there is large scale redevelopment and a thriving business sector, 35% of Southwark residents live in one of the most multiply-deprived areas in England.  47% of residents belong to minority ethnic communities and Southwark is home to the largest Black African community in England. 

Southwark has a higher than average reporting of all mental health issues. 13.4% of the population reported depression and anxiety in 2014/15, a figure much higher than the London average of 11.7%. Serious Mental Illness registrations and hospital admissions are high in both Southwark and Lambeth.  Similarly, people with poor mental health have higher unemployment rates.

Partnership network

Morley College formed a new partnership network between a range of voluntary and statutory sector organisations in Southwark. They included SLaM Recovery College, IAPT Southwark, Multi-Ethnic Counselling Service, Pembroke House, CoolTan Arts, Dragon Café, MIND Southwark and Lambeth and, Southwark Hub. The partnership identified learners’ needs and aspirations together with the gaps in local services. As a response, the network aimed to develop a learning programme to meet local needs, promote individual and organisational resilience and tackle inequality of access to services. Organisations shared resources, offered each other training, made contributions in kind and jointly planned and delivered courses.

Morley College coordinated partnership work, shared its resources, ran workforce development opportunities for other partners, and provided diverse and progressive learning offer to diverse local adults. The college had a whole-organisational approach to the project, invested into its own learning in order to upskill the staff and embed health and wellbeing practice across the organisation.

Role of the voluntary sector

Voluntary sector organisations led on community outreach, provided peer support groups and shared skills and knowledge with Morley College. For example, Dragon Café organised a monthly Wellbeing Café with informal learning opportunities at the College from September 2015 to June 2016. The Café was set up as a social hub to promote accessibility to the college to wider communities and promote inclusive, non-stigmatising culture and mental health awareness among staff and students. CooltanArts hosted community-based arts courses and recruited students who would not otherwise access learning.

As the year went on, new voluntary sector organisations joined the network to promote access to learning to other marginalised groups, such as BAME women, adults with LDD, men with mental health problems. Some of the new partners were: Aaina Women’s Group, Palm Tree Recovery Club, Walworth Garden Farm, Photofusion, Raw Material, Mosaic Club House, In-Spire and others. 

Role of mental health services

SLaM Recovery College supported curriculum development, provided staff training on co-production and gave expert advice to other partners.  Southwark IAPT and Multi-Ethnic Counselling Service identified and referred clients to relevant community and mental health services, provided expert advice and supported mental health education approaches. 

Benefits and difficulties

This model of partnerships enabled statutory organisations and college to reach out to local adults they may not be able to engage with on their own. It also enabled the capacity building of more partners and promoted learner-centred, responsive, innovative educational approaches. However, this model of partnership working was more challenging for organisations with already strained resources where it was difficult to align the project objectives with the existing services. The need to collect detailed and frequent mental health self-assessment questionnaires was counterproductive for engagement of some community groups. This was also resource heavy for smaller organisations.

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