Bid to prevent students ‘falling through the gaps’ of mental health provision

£3 million of government funding has been promised for regional partnerships drawing together disparate mental health services

The government has announced plans to improve students’ mental health services by introducing a series of regional partnerships.

Up to £3 million of funding has been promised for the initiative, which bids to prevent HE students “falling through the gaps” by drawing university, NHS and mental health services closer together.

Yesterday (20 June) saw the ministers for universities and mental health – respectively, Michelle Donelan and Gillian Keegan – convene representatives from across the HE and healthcare sectors to launch the new scheme and showcase instances where examples of integration are already in place.

Attendees included the Office for Students (OfS), Russell Group, Million Plus and NHS England, together with a number of universities which have already established schemes to connect their services with the NHS.

Among the examples of best practice highlighted were five locations – Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, and north London – which have brought together services into a physical hub for students to visit, funded via the OfS’ challenge fund.

“This government has prioritised student mental health because we know how important it is for students to feel supported,” said Donelan.

“Good mental health can affect their studies, boosting attainment and outcomes and helping them towards their bright futures.”

Read more: New ONS figures on suicide follow Donelan’s call for more regular data to help university leaders take better preventative action

The NUS welcomed news of the initiative, calling it “a win for students”.

Nevertheless, the proposed level of funding for the scheme was strongly criticised by NUS UK president, Larissa Kennedy.

“Whilst it’s welcome that the government have listened to us and acknowledged their responsibility for doing more to tackle the student mental health crisis, this support amounts to just roughly £1 per student,” she said.

“That’s a drop in the ocean, and more needs to be done to tackle this problem which is getting worse for students and young people. We know from our research that the majority of students are burdened with anxiety.”

As well as calling for increased funding for NHS mental health services and early support hubs to help prevent people from reaching crisis point, Kennedy added:

“We’re hearing from students who can’t even afford to continue getting the bus to therapy sessions. The government should introduce rent protections, offer basic levels of maintenance support, and announce a cost of living payment for all students.”

In related news, the government has launched a call for evidence on what can be improved within current services and how to better understand the causes of mental ill-health. Open to people of all ages, and set to help inform a new 10-year mental health plan, the online survey will remain open until 7 July.

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