All further education colleges are to benefit from a share of £4m funding for mental health and wellbeing support, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has announced at a visit to Coleg Cambria during Mental Health Awareness Week.
The £4m will increase the capacity of welfare teams in all FE colleges in Wales including recruitment of wellbeing support officers and will build on the success of previous Welsh Government funded mental health and wellbeing initiatives such as counselling support, early intervention training, recruitment of staff to encourage outdoor activity and projects working with mental health charities.
Coleg Cambria and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai have used Welsh Government mental health and wellbeing funding to work with Public Health Wales to develop trauma informed practice.
Staff have received training to understand how trauma can affect learners and how to provide appropriate support.
The physical environment of the college has been transformed to provide wellbeing hubs which provide a calming environment to promote mindfulness and wellbeing. Information to support mental health and wellbeing is readily available and wellbeing officers are on hand to talk to staff and learners.
The trauma informed approach is being rolled out by Public Health Wales to other FE colleges in Wales thanks to this latest funding.
Over 1,200 learners at Coleg Cambria have benefitted from these initiatives and over 800 are currently receiving ongoing support. Since 2020, 11 new staff have been recruited to support the mental health and wellbeing of both staff and learners in the college.
During Mental Health Awareness week, staff and learners at Coleg Cambria are enjoying wellbeing sessions ranging from physical activities such as basketball, football, spin classes and yoga to other wellbeing activities including bushcraft, origami and meeting the assistant dogs, plus owls and falcons. A number of these activities are supported by local charities and small businesses.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said:
It is vital we continue to build on the excellent work taking place in the FE sector to meet the increase in demand for mental health support following the pandemic.
That's why I'm announcing this extra funding to build on this existing work and to create new initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of our learners so that they are ready to participate in and benefit from learning. Everyone has the right to a happy education experience.
Carlie Hughes-Lloyd, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Transitions Officer at Coleg Cambria, appointed as result of Welsh Government's mental health and wellbeing funding, said,
I was a learner in Coleg Cambria in 2015 and now I've returned as a member of the wellbeing team. There is such a difference now. There is much more support available for staff and learners, it's amazing to see how much has changed. The wellbeing hubs are a great safe space for everyone and there are specialist staff to support everyone. I'm privileged to be a part of the change that's happening and be able to support new learners with their transition into the college.
Lizzie Stevens, Head of Inclusion at Coleg Cambria said,
As a college we are committed to providing inclusion for all. We recognise the barriers our learners face, including mental ill health.
With support from the Welsh Government and its Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, we are able to provide our learners with timely and dedicated support, both before and during their time with us. This is enhanced through our Trauma Informed approaches which have encouraged us to look at how we interact with learners. It is also integrated into all of our processes and policies, reflecting the College's strategy and values.