S39: Creating Healthy Communities for Learning: Vocational Education and Training (VET) in NSW.

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By September 11, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Jennifer Smith-Merry, John Buchanan, Ivy Yen, Ally Drinkwater

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Creating Healthy Communities for Learning: Vocational Education and Training (VET) in NSW.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Dr Jennifer Smith-Merry is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney. Jen is Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP). The CDRP is a multi-disciplinary centre whose mission is to make life better for people with disability by developing research and translating this to policy and practice through involvement in partnerships and policy development. Jen also leads the Mental Health and Disability research in the Faculty.

Jen has a PhD in policy from the University of Queensland (2005) and her academic research has focused on policy and service development, primarily in mental health and the study of adverse events. Prior to her current position she was Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University of Sydney.

Jen is Chief Investigator on multiple grants, mainly in the field of mental health services and has led the successful evaluation of large scale interventions including of Partners in Recovery in Western Sydney (with Jim Gillespie). Current research partners include the NSW Government, the NSW Mental Health Commission and the National Mental Health Commission. Jen has a strong interest in recovery-oriented practice and in the experiences of mental health consumers. She has a strong belief in the importance of the knowledge of consumers for service development and research and works in collaboration with several consumer researchers.

Jen’s academic outputs are focused on academic, policy and service audiences. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Jen recently led the development of the Mind the Gap report into the NDIS and psychosocial disability. This report drew attention to the significant problems faced in delivering NDIS in the context of mental health.

Vocational education and training (VET) has the potential to provide very significant benefits for the social inclusion of people with mental ill-health through inclusion in a community of learning within a context which allows the flexible acquisition of new skills and through courses which focus on job-readiness (Best et al 2008; Suijkerbuijk et al, 2017).

In NSW people with disability, including people with mental ill-health, receive fee reductions and funding which is paid to providers to support their learning. It has been unclear until now what that has meant for the learning experience of people who receive support through the scheme.

Over the last decade there has also been a Federal Government-driven revolution in the way that VET is structured and funded. This has brought an increased market competitiveness to the VET sector and caused an influx of small and private providers in a market formally dominated by the publicly-funded TAFE system. This has raised questions about the ability of small providers to effectively provide support for people with additional needs.

Our paper draws on data from research with individuals with lived experience, carers and providers from this new environment. We conceptualise a model which develops an effective community of learning inclusive of the needs of people with mental illness and allows them to successfully complete their vocational education.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Those attending this presentation will come away with an understanding of what an effective vocational education and training community inclusive of people with mental illness would look like.
Learning Objective 2: Vocational education and training can be an important facilitator of social inclusion for people with mental ill-health.

Best, L. J., et al. (2008). "Supported education: Enabling course completion for people experiencing mental illness." Australian Occupational Therapy Journal 55(1): 65-68.
Suijkerbuijk, Y. B., et al. (2017). "Interventions for obtaining and maintaining employment in adults with severe mental illness, a network meta-analysis." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews(9).

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