To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of funding for (a) student support services and (b) mental health support.
Protecting the mental health of students continues to be a priority for this government and I have convened representatives from the higher education and health sectors to specifically address the current and pressing issues that students are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Department of Health and Social Care has overall policy responsibility for young people’s mental health. We continue to work closely with them to take steps to develop mental health and wellbeing support.
The government 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.
We have invested £8 million in the Wellbeing for Education Return programme, 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. Further information is available here:
In further education, £5.4 million of competitive grant funding has been provided through the College Collaboration Fund, with five of the projects funded to support student and staff mental health and wellbeing through online programmes and remote support.
It is for higher education providers as autonomous bodies to identify and address the needs of their student body, and many providers have boosted their existing welfare and counselling services to ensure students are able to access the support they need. Student Space, funded with up to £3 million from the Office for Students, provides dedicated support services (by phone and by text) for students and a collaborative online platform to help students access vital mental health and wellbeing resources. The platform bridges gaps in support for students arising from the COVID-19 outbreak and is designed to work alongside existing services.
We have asked that providers 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 2020-21 academic year starting from August, to go towards student hardship funds and mental health support.
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 NHS and Public Health England, and the mental health charity Mind.