The need for NOCS
Over 100 people attend the various NOCS clubs and drop in per week, without any active outreach to our target group. NOCS is the only place of its kind in Dorset – and some considerable way beyond – for young people and adults with anxiety and social communication difficulties, or mental health challenges. Click here to visit NOC’s Facebook page›
Although a high proportion of our members have additional needs, some do not. NOCS is fully inclusive and the presence of this wide range of people with shared interests helps us all to operate in a supportive community, including those with and without additional social interaction needs. The presence of this diverse mix of enthusiastic games players is core to how we operate as a supportive community. It’s very important to our work that NOCS retains this wide appeal, whilst targeting particular support to those with specific social needs.
People with ASD or mental health challenges are an under-funded and hard-to-reach community who may experience significant levels of social and economic exclusion. Some struggle even to leave their homes, a situation worsened in our predominantly rural community where people may experience rural isolation and where public transport, public services and opportunities to meet others with similar needs are all scarce.
Asperger’s, Mental Health and ‘NEETS’
The three main groups with specific social needs who are present in disproportionate numbers in NOCS community are those with Asperger’s, mental health difficulties, or those under 25 who are not in education, employment or training (‘NEETS’). In practice there is considerable overlap between the three groups; some have diagnosed conditions whilst others do not. However, a high proportion have difficulties with social communication and anxiety.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) estimates there are c.700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – 1.1% of the population. If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. Estimates of the incidence of people with ASDs in Dorset match that in the general population.
Awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders, and access to diagnosis, have improved somewhat in recent years. However, many adults today with ASD, such as Asperger’s, have not been diagnosed. They, along with those who don’t have symptoms severe enough for a formal diagnosis (or who have not sought a diagnosis), live lives that are severely restricted by their high anxieties and social communication difficulties.
Asperger’s: Reports of the impact of ASD often focus on young people, but the impact carries on into adult life. The NAS reports that:
- Fewer than 1 in 6 autistic adults have full-time paid work and 16% are in part-time employment.
- Less than a third (32%) of autistic adults have any kind of paid work, compared with 80% of non-disabled people.
- A high proportion of those with ASD who are in work report a higher level of being under-employed i.e. they are employed below their ability levels.
People with Asperger’s tend to have highly focused interests and anecdotal evidence strongly supports the idea that they are particularly attracted to games. It’s widely accepted in the gaming community (card games, board games and wargames) that a high proportion of gamers exhibit some behaviours associated with this range of disorders. A much higher proportion of those with an ASD are male than female.
NEETS: A disproportionate number of NOCS’ regular users under 25 are not in employment, education or training (NEETS). NEETS may struggle to access or afford to develop their games hobby and access the developmental opportunities it offers without NOCS’ low/no-cost supportive community. There is a significant overlap between NEETS and the ASD community.
About 11% of 16-24 year olds in Dorset are identified as NEETS, with an increasing proportion being male. This constitutes a large number of young adults in Dorset.
Mental health: An important part of NOCS’ objectives is to include and support people with mental health challenges. One adult in 6 in Britain has a common mental disorder, mixed anxiety and depression being the most common, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis. Around 4m people in the UK live with bipolar disorder.
Between 4% and 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. Unsurprisingly, there is a considerable overlap between ASD and associated disorders, including anxiety and depression.
NOCS is here to support people in Dorset with these needs to find friendship, develop their confidence and feel more comfortable mixing with others.