To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to prioritise the health and wellbeing of university students during the covid-19 outbreak.
27 November 2020
Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of students continues to be a priority for this government and I have convened representatives from the higher education (HE) and health sectors to specifically address the current and pressing issues that university students are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak. In my recent letter to Vice Chancellors in October, I outlined that student welfare should remain a priority.
We expect HE providers to continue to support their students and identify and address the needs of their student body. Many HE providers have bolstered their existing mental health services and adapted delivery mechanisms, which includes reaching out to students who may be more vulnerable, to ensure that students are able to access the support that they need. Staff at universities and colleges have shown resourcefulness and there are many examples of good practice.
We have worked with the Office for Students (OfS) to provide Student Space, which has been funded by up to £3 million by the OfS. Student Space is a mental health and wellbeing platform that aims to bridge any gaps in support for students arising from this unprecedented situation and is designed to work alongside existing services. Ensuring students have access to quality mental health support is my top priority, which is why I asked the OfS to look at extending the platform. I am delighted they have been able to extend the platform to support students for the whole of the 2020/21 academic year because no student should be left behind at this challenging time. This resource provides dedicated one-to-one phone, text and web chat facilities as well as a collaborative online platform providing vital mental health and wellbeing resources.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has overall policy responsibility for young people’s mental health. We continue to work closely with them to take significant steps to support the mental health and wellbeing support for students in higher education settings.
The DHSC is committed, through the NHS Long Term Plan, to investing at least £2.3 billion of extra funding a year into mental health services by 2023-24. This will see an additional 345,000 children and young people, and adults, able to access support through NHS-funded services.
Over £9 million has been provided by the government to leading mental health charities to help them expand and reach those most in need. Students struggling with their mental health can also access support via online resources from the mental health charity Mind, the NHS and Public Health England, and via the following website: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/.