Lee Dargue and the Liberal Democrats have pledged their commitment to transform mental health services in the UK by creating a binding Student Mental Health Charter. This will require all universities to guarantee access to high quality mental health services for their students.
This is part of the Liberal Democrats’ plan to prioritise everyone’s mental health, including the commitment to invest £11 billion in transforming mental health services, more than either Labour or the Tories.
A recent freedom of information revealed that many universities do not record fundamental data, such as their budgets or waiting times.
The Mental Health Charter would put in law a guarantee for universities to ensure a good level of mental health provision, including the commitment for universities to publish data on their university waiting times, as well as a maximum wait for access to counselling and support.
Liberal Democrat candidate for Birmingham Ladwyood, and West Midlands spokesperson on Health and Care, Lee Dargue, said:
“Young people have always faced pressures in growing up, especially when also navigating their way through education. Whilst universities in Birmingham have had some success with mental health support, the support is patchy and voluntary.
“Many social pressures are put on young people at University – such as living away from home, managing stretched finances and trying to forge new relationships. With the added pressures of deadlines and exam results from their studies, a person’s mental health can often struggle to cope with the demands.
“The Liberal Democrats believe universities should be bound by law to support the mental health needs of their students. The charity Students Minds have led on this, and I give full credit to the work they have done on the mental health charter. We would work with students, universities and other charities to ensure that we give young people the support they need with their mental health, at this crucial time of their lives.”
The Liberal Democrats will develop the Charter in consultation with students, mental health charities and universities. It would include:
- Guaranteeing access to provision
- Guaranteeing provision of a certain standard
- Recording and reporting waiting times to allow students and prospective students to have knowledge of when they will be able to access services
- The aim for all Universities to reach zero suicide
A freedom of information request by Sir Norman Lamb revealed that many universities do not know or do not record key mental health statistics such as the breakdown for mental health spend in their budget and average waiting times.
The survey revealed:
- Over a quarter of universities have failed to increase or are cutting funding when compared to a peak in the last five years.
- 75% of universities saw an increase in engagement with university counselling services between 2014-15 and 2017-18.
- The average longest wait for counselling was 43.5 days – over half the length of a standard university term.
And the survey also showed that many universities lack the ability to track the state of their own mental health services:
- Over three quarters of universities were unable to provide data on longest wait times for accessing counselling.
- A third of universities told us they do not record average waiting times for seeing a counsellor.
- 75% of universities that responded to the survey were unable to provide any detail on what routes students had been referred by to mental health services.