Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (58)

James Browne


58. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recent survey indicating that record numbers of third level students are seeking counselling for mental health problems; if the number of counsellors per student is low compared to the recommended ratio agreed by an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26552/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Student services and associated activities are an integral part of the whole student experience at third level. Student services support each individual student to 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.

In relation to the provision of services within the institutions, the position is that my Department's provides recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority for direct disbursement to its designated higher education institutions. The HEA allocates this funding as a block grant to these institutions, and the internal disbursement of this funding, including the funding of student services, is a matter for the individual institution.

The National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report, 2017 made a number of recommendations in this area and highlighted the good practice and innovative initiatives aimed at supporting students experiencing mental health difficulties in many institutions, as outlined in the AHEAD report Mental Health Matters. The Department of Health is developing a National Healthy Campus Framework whose aims include to support and recognise the work of institutions in improving the health and wellbeing of campus communities, and to generate and disseminate knowledge for promoting health and wellbeing on campus. In addition a working group has been convened by the Higher Education Authority to progress actions under the Connecting for Life (CfL) strategy, and the first meeting of the group was in December 2018. The group includes representatives from my Department, higher education institutions, student counsellors, and USI.