Universities: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 14th July 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what additional support he plans to provide to universities to support students who are self-isolating, from September 2021.

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

From the 16 August and as part of Step 4 of the government’s COVID-19 roadmap, double vaccinated people and people under 18 years old will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

It remains vitally important that universities continue to make sure that students feel as supported as possible, should they have to self-isolate. This robust package of support needs to include mental health and wellbeing support, daily communications and ensuring students have access to suitable free or affordable food.

Universities UK have also produced a checklist for providers to support students who are required to self-isolate as well as bespoke guidance for higher education providers on how to prepare for and care for international students or students who are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.

The Office for Students (OfS) has published a statement on support for students in self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some students may be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if they are required to self-isolate. We will continue to review the situation moving forward.

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

We have asked the OfS to allocate £15 million towards student mental health in 2021/22 (from September) through proposed reforms to Strategic Priorities grant funding, to help address the challenges to student mental health posed by the transition to university, given the increasing demand for mental health services. This will target those students in greatest need of such services, including vulnerable groups and hard to reach students.

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