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Universities: Mental Health Services

Question for Department for Education

UIN 134583, tabled on 8 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with university leaders on the steps they are taking to ensure that students learning remotely continue to have access to adequate mental health support.

Answered on

13 January 2021

Protecting student and staff wellbeing is vital - these are difficult times and it is important students can still access the mental health and wellbeing support they need. We recognise that many students are facing additional mental health challenges due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is for higher education providers as autonomous bodies to identify and address the needs of their student body and to decide what mental health and wellbeing support to put in place. At the start of, and throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, I have asked universities to prioritise mental health support, and continue to support their students, which has included making services accessible from a distance. We encourage students to stay in touch with their provider’s student support and welfare teams, as these services are likely to continue to be an important source of assistance. Many providers have bolstered their existing mental health services, and adapted delivery mechanisms including reaching out to students who may be more vulnerable.

In October I wrote to Vice Chancellors outlining that student welfare should remain a priority. I have convened a working group of representatives from the higher education and health sectors, specifically to address the current and pressing issues that students are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We have also 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 designed to bridge any gaps in support for students arising from this unprecedented situation and works alongside existing services. Ensuring students have access to quality mental health support is my top priority, which is why we 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 2020/21 academic year.

Students struggling with their mental health can also access support via online resources from the NHS, Public Health England via the Better Health - Every Mind Matters website, and the mental health charity Mind.

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