NHS services across Lancashire should not underestimate the impact which adult learning can have on the wellbeing of the population, according to the county’s Director of Public Health.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi was speaking at meeting of the county’s Health and Wellbeing Board which heard a plea from the adult learning service for a more “strategic” approach to working across different organisations.
“It’s been an invisible service, in the background for long time - but I know it is making a lot of impact,” Dr Karunanithi said. “For instance, improving people’s capability to go online is going to be a game-changer.”
The adult learning service receives more than £5m in government grants which it spends with around 200 voluntary organisations and other groups to target “disadvantaged” learners. Many of the courses do not lead to formal qualifications - but instead teach life skills.
Andy Parkin, the service’s director of curriculum, said: “Our learners aren’t the ones who are going to walk into a traditional further education college. They’re the ones who are disengaged - often with life. They struggle to get out of bed of a morning,” he said.
“But we use third parties to engage with people and we work in partnership with them to recruit learners, so that we can go in, often by stealth, and deliver our programme,” Mr. Parkin added.
Lancashire’s is one of the largest adult education services in the country, working with more than 13,000 each year - 2,500 of whom receive courses to improve their health and wellbeing.
“We’re looking at personal goals and outcomes as the key achievements in those courses, because they’re not qualification driven - so that’s how we measure progress,” Sarah Howarth, curriculum lead for Health and Wellbeing, told the meeting.
Others benefit from “upskilling courses” to ready them for the workplace and there is also a focus on helping the “digitally disadvantaged”.
Andy Parkin appealed for health and social care services to “think about how to use our grants and our free service offer and curriculum to support any initiatives you’ve got across the county”.
The service is the current holder of the Times Education Supplement’s Adult and Community Learning Service award.