I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 226 together.
Student services and associated activities are an integral part of the whole student experience at third level. Student services support each individual student achieve his/her intellectual, cultural and social potential while supporting and complementing the formal academic programme. Student services can fall under a number of headings, particularly ‘Welfare and Guidance’ which includes counselling services, health promotion, careers service, multi-faith, racial and ethnic cultural support.
My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to HEA designated higher education institutions. The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to the institutions. As autonomous bodies, the internal disbursement of this funding, including the funding of student services, is a matter for the individual institution.
Budget 2019 announced plans for an enhancement of counselling services in higher education institutions. The strategic dialogue process and the performance compacts between the HEA and HEIs will be used to assess existing provision and delivery in this area, and in order to determine the most appropriate means of strengthening counselling services in the course of 2019.
I understand from the HEA, who have made enquiries to Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), that CIT are acutely aware of the growing demand for counselling services. It is a trend that is experienced by all counselling services in Higher Education and is reflected by a growth nationally in people seeking support for mental health services.
The number of students using CIT’s Student Counselling Service has constantly risen over the past ten years, however, the overall spend in counselling services within CIT has also increased. Since 2008/09 spend has increased by 64%, when it stood at over €210,000, to nearly €350,000 for the past academic year, 2017/18.
CIT currently has 7 part-time counsellors providing services such as individual counselling, class presentations, liaising with external services etc. In addition CIT recently advertised for a Head of Student Counselling to further strengthen this provision. One of the first duties of the new Head of Counselling will be to liaise with the various professional services in Cork and nationally who will assist with the growing demand for supports.