Getting into learning
Are you thinking about getting into learning?
Do you want some information or advice to know what opportunities are available to you? And because you have experience of mental health difficulties do you want information that acknowledges that you might have different questions or different needs?
The bottom line is that you may not find mental health mentioned explicitly, but the good news is there is help available!
This page has resources about what's available to help you get into learning (and to help other people who might be supporting you to do so). Remember, general information about learning and skills opportunities all applies to you too and because of the Equalities Act (2010) mainstream advice and services need to respond to all sorts of differences and complex personal circumstances.
Do you think you might want some help and support?
The secret to getting the help that you need as an individual can often lie in being aspirational for yourself about what you want to do and what it is you want to get out of your learning and/or employment. Next, it helps if you know a bit about what you are entitled to and what questions to ask people. This can take a bit of thinking about, some reading on websites and a little planning.
If you are feeling confident check out the links we suggest below but if it seems a bit daunting you might want to get someone else to do it alongside you - which will make it easier and if you experience any frustrations along the way together you'll know it isn't personal or about you. You might want to ask a friend (or if you use mental health services ask someone who is working with you) to help.
Plus, if you register on this website you can use our discussion forums to find out more.
Step one: Get some good information
You Can Do It is a good place to start. It’s a short leaflet that introduces the benefits of learning for adults with mental health difficulties and it includes stories from learners who’ve succeeded. (It is also available in easy read and audio formats.)
You also might find it helpful to check out the RADAR (the national Disbaility Network) publication "Supporting Sustainable Careers: What Disabled People Need to Succeed in Employment" which gives disabled people a voice about the action that needs to be taken in order for them to get into and stay in the world of work.
Sometimes some groups of people with mental health difficulties can face more barriers than others to getting into learning. This is sometimes particularly true for people from Black and Minority Ethnicdefinition groups so we have produced some specific guidelines, Race to Learning (2010) to explore what supporters can do to help people overcome these barriers.
Step two: Speak to a specialist information, advice and guidance worker
Check out the Next Step service
Next Step can give you information and advice on learning and training to help you get on in work and life. If you're not sure you have the skills and experience to take on a new challenge, Next Step can help you identify your skills and think about how you might use them.
Next Step offers careers and skills advice to fit your needs such as the types of support available including disability, childcare and financial support plus many other areas where you might want some extra help. Next Step advisers are available to talk things through with you over the phone or face-to-face at a location near you.
Advisers will help you to think about what you want to do, what opportunities are available and how to find a solution for any barriers you might experience. You could also visit the Next Step website for tools and information to help you get on. For more information visit the Next Step website or call 0800 100 900 between 8am – 10pm 7 days a week.
The service is also available, over the telephone, with bi-lingual advisers in the following languages:
Punjabi 0800 093 1333*
Sylheti 0800 093 1444
Somali 0800 093 1555
Urdu 0800 093 1118*
Gujarati 0800 093 1119
Polish 0800 093 1114
French 0800 093 1115
Farsi 0800 093 1116
Lines are open Monday to Friday, between 9am – 5pm * Urdu and Punjabi lines are open 9am – 8pm
Next Step is a publicly funded service (so it is free to use it) that helps adults get the advice they need for future skills, careers, work and life choices. It offers:
- Finding your direction, if you're feeling trapped in your situation, and don't know how to change it
- Information about planning your career, job roles and career choices
- Different types of learning
- Help to find a course in your local area
- Online Skills Health Check and action planning tools that you can use (before you speak to anyone if you like)
- Details, if you are on benefits of how they will be affected
When you visit the Next Step home page you won't see anything immediately about mental health or disabilities, but if you enter disabilities in the search box you will find some useful information.
If it is not support for your mental health that you want to know more about but your other personal circumstances, like help with childcare or being a carer or an ex-offender and you might also find the 'Advice for your situation' page helpful.
Be warned though, if you put 'mental health' in the search box you will get about 12 pages of different jobs relating to working in health but you won't find anything specifically about different things the Next Step service can offer you because you have mental health difficulties or about the support that you might be able to get in learning.
To declare or not to declare?
Before you speak to anyone at Next Step you might want to give some thought to whether you want to declare your mental health difficulties. Should I Say? is a leaflet to help you think this through. (it is also available in a short version, and in easy read and audio formats).
Because you have experience of mental health difficulties it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a disability but it may do. If you declare to Next Step that you have a disability you will be entitled to additional support if you need it. Remember, you won't need to go into detail about your diagnosis - all people need to know is whether you think your condition may affect your learning and/or employment and if so they will help you to look at how it might affect your learning and/or work and what kind of extra support you might need.
As a practical tip, it can be a really good idea to browse the Next Step website before you speak to or meet with an adviser so that you already have some idea of what they can offer you. It will help you feel much less pressurised or anxious when you are speaking to them and you will be less likely to bring the conversation to a close because it is making you feel panicky. This way you can use the opportunity of talking to someone to get your questions answered - use your time with the adviser to 'search' for what you want to know.
Don't be put off by the fact that an appointment with an adviser is called a 'careers advice interview'. It’s not like ‘interviews’ you may have had for jobs or about your benefits. Your time with an adviser is about helping you to think about what you want to do, what opportunities are available to you and how to find a solution for any barriers you might experience.
When you are speaking to an adviser on the phone or in person it is OK to ask them to stop and ring you back or to pause to give you a break for a few minutes to think about what they have said.
If you’ve used the Next Step Service why not use our discussion forum to let us know how you got on and to share any tips you want to pass on to other people who are thinking about getting onto learning?