Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve student wellbeing during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people continues to be a priority for this government. Access to mental health support is more important than ever during the COVID-19 outbreak. This government is working to promote good mental health in schools and further and higher education settings.

In July, the government announced a £1 billion COVID catch-up package, with £650 million shared across schools over the 2020/21 academic year, to support education settings to put the right catch-up and pastoral support in place.

In addition, £8 million has been invested in the ‘Wellbeing for Education Return’ project, providing schools and colleges with the knowledge and practical skills to help improve how to respond to the emotional impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. A link to this programme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wellbeing-for-education-return-grant-s31-grant-determination-letter.

I have asked providers to boost their existing welfare and counselling services to ensure support services can be accessed. This is particularly important for those students having to self-isolate or who are affected by local restrictions.

Student Space, funded with £3 million from the Office for Students, provides dedicated support services through a collaborative online platform to help students access vital mental health and wellbeing resources. The platform bridges gaps in support arising from the COVID-19 outbreak and is designed to work alongside existing services. A link to Student Space’s website can be found here: https://studentspace.org.uk/.

We have also asked higher education providers to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of students, enabling them to use funding, worth up to £23 million per month from April to July this year and £256 million for the academic year 2020/21 starting from August, to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support.

In August, we established a cross-sector COVID Higher Education Taskforce. On 5 October, we agreed to convene a new working group, as a sub-group of the taskforce, with a specific focus on student mental health issues. The group will seek to gather direct feedback from the sector to better understand and address any systemic barriers getting in the way of good support.

The government has provided over £9 million to leading mental health charities to help them expand and reach those most in need and NHS mental health trusts are ensuring 24/7 access to crisis telephone lines to support people of all ages. Public Health England and Health Education England have also developed advice and guidance for parents and professionals to support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, available here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-supporting-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-and-wellbeing.

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