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Students: Mental Health Services

Question for Department for Education

UIN 22535, tabled on 21 June 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if his Department will make an assessment of the potential merits of providing additional mental health support for university students on placement years.

Answered on

5 July 2022

Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government, and have a responsibility to ensure students are well supported during their studies, so they can fully participate in their university experience and achieve outcomes to progress to quality employment. HE providers are not only experts in their student population, but are also best placed to identify the needs of their students, including students undertaking placements as part of their studies.

The mental health and wellbeing of young people is a priority for the government. We continue to work closely with the higher education (HE) sector to promote and fund effective practice. Through strategic guidance to the Office for Students (OfS), we asked that it distributes £15 million of funding in FY the 2022/23 financial year to give additional support for transitions from school/college to university, and through targeting funding to support partnership working with NHS services to provide pathways of care for students. The OfS funded Student Space, which provides a dedicated online platform for students providing vital mental health and wellbeing, and resources and is leading work to establish and share ‘what works’ across the sector.

The University Mental Health Charter, led by Student Minds and backed by the government, brings together universities to drive up standards of practice in mental health provision across the HE sector. The Charter identifies support for students on placements as a principle of good practice, encouraging HE providers to ensure targeted support for students on placement and on professional programmes, who may require more in-depth preparation and specific interventions. I have made clear my ambition for all HE providers to sign up to the Charter programme within 5 years.

Preventing suicide and self-harm in our student population continues to be a key concern, including through supporting the suicide safer universities framework led by Universities UK (UUK) and Papyrus. UUK have worked with stakeholders to develop a checklist which ensures better coordination of support between HE providers and placement providers, including mental health quality assurance of placements. This is due to be published in late July.

The OfS will allocate up to £3 million of funding towards developing stronger partnership working with NHS services. Alongside my hon Friend, the member for Chichester, I chaired a summit in June to launch this work and ensure that the department and the Department of Health and Social Care work together to achieve this common goal.