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Tue, 27 October 2020

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The government must ensure university students in lockdown have access to mental health support

The government must ensure university students in lockdown have access to mental health support

Students are telling me that entire floors are locked down, and while they can get food parcels, no mental health support has been offered, writes Rosena Allin-Khan MP. | PA Images

3 min read

We are facing a mental health crisis ready to explode. The government must urgently outline a package of measures to support all students, particularly those self-isolating.

No mental health support has been offered to students locked down at university

The government must ensure students in lockdown at university have access to mental health support

Young people have faced a unique set of challenges during the pandemic. The unexpected closure of schools, meaning students missed out on the opportunity to say goodbye to friends, the A-Level results debacle, and now the same cohort is trapped in uncertainty in their university accommodation with people they have just met. All of this, in just six months.

Each university has a unique challenge ahead and each town or city has a different set of regulations to adhere to. Support must be tailored to each institution, and the Education Secretary and the Health Secretary should be working with students, students’ unions, universities, accommodation providers, local authorities and local NHS and mental health partners to develop tailored plans and a national strategy going forward.

The new academic year starts each September, this should not have come as a surprise to Ministers – if it did, it demonstrates the sheer incompetence of this government yet again.

During Health Questions, the Minister stated that she doesn’t recognise the situation our students and young people are in, regarding mental health. I would suggest that she speaks to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, who acknowledged that the situation playing out in university campuses will affect the mental health and wellbeing of students.

The Minister for Mental Health should also be reaching out to affected students and engaging with their needs.

Students are telling me that entire floors are locked down, and while they can get food parcels, no mental health support has been offered. No information on how to even begin to access support has been made available. For many international students who have just completed their two week quarantine upon coming into the UK, they have had to go into another two weeks of self-isolation. Yet, still no mental health support has been offered.

How many young people have to speak out before this government takes note?

Even before the pandemic, students were placed on long waiting lists for access to mental health services – we cannot have students falling through the cracks now

Labour is calling on the government to prioritise support for self-isolating students, as it’s a mental health crisis ready to explode. The government must outline a package of measures to support all students, particularly those self-isolating. Existing services must be genuinely accessible, and a renewed effort must be made to ensure that students are signposted to local and national support.

It is vital that all of this is done in consultation with students and the local institutions that can support them. Far too often the government has imposed changes upon local organisations, only telling them after the fact. For mental health services to work, and for them to be truly accessible, students must have their say.

Even before the pandemic, students were placed on long waiting lists for access to mental health services – we cannot have students falling through the cracks now.

Parents deserve to know that when they send their children to university, they are safe and their wellbeing is supported. Our young people are the future of this country, let’s give them the best start in life.

 

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting and shadow minister for mental health.

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