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Welfare & International Officer

What students need to know (This meeting notes…)

  • UCL’s Student Psychological Services is severely oversubscribed, with nowhere near enough counsellors to support the thousands of students who register for support. According to a 2018 report produced by the students’ union, between 2010 and 2017 the ratio of the number of students in need of support, to the support available, increased by 49 percent.
  • According to a 2016 report by the students’ union, SPS lacked the capacity to see a full third of those seeking therapy.
  • The same report argued for an increase of £340k to properly fund the services, paying for an additional 6.5 FTE counsellors – enough to eliminate the waiting list.
  • There is also a six-session cap on the number of sessions to which students are entitled.
  • A petition was launched to the Provost to make this demand, and collected over 2100 signatures.
  • The university at first ignored this petition, and responded to concerns about mental health funding with a number of internal changes to the service – such as implementing a system of triaging – rather than committing against resources.
  • Following a series of direct actions from student campaigners (UCL: Fund Our Mental Health Services) and backed by the students’ union and the sabbatical officers, the Registry agreed to lobby for an additional £140,000 in funding in order to pay for two new counsellors and a deputy director for the counselling service.
  • This funding has not yet been confirmed by the university.
  • UCL is a £1.3 billion institution and pays its Provost substantially more than the money that the campaign is demanding (£360k per year).
  • At our last general assembly, the students’ union passed a motion overwhelmingly expressing no confidence in the governance of UCL, in part due to its inaction in relation to the mental health crisis.
  • When meeting with campaigners, the Director of Student Support and Wellbeing stated that if the £140,000 did not adequately reduce the waiting list, they would request more funds in addition.

What Union Council thinks about it (This meeting believes…)

  • The mental health crisis has to be stopped.
  • The changes made to the service do not address the fundamental problem of SPS’s oversubscription.
  • Triaging for mental health issues is dangerous, particularly when there are insufficient resources to see all students. When the majority of applicants to SPS cite anxiety and depression as their motivation, triaging will force students to compete for resources, and those at the end of long waiting lists are likely to see their mental health deteriorate if untreated.
  • Additional counsellors are urgently needed.
  • UCL is a deeply unequal institution prioritising funding managerial staff and unnecessary capital expenditure on buildings over student support services and mental health. This is wrong and has to be challenged.
  • Lobbying has failed and only direct action will force UCL to invest in mental health funding, as has been illustrated by last year’s successes.
  • It will be an insult to the student community if the £140,000 in funding is not approved. In addition, while this funding would be a step forward, it is unlikely to be enough.

What we should do (This meeting resolves…)

  • To reassert its support for the mental health campaign in the fight to win additional funding, and to provide campaigners with funds and resources to continue it.
  • To mandate the DOC and Welfare & International Officers to organise direct action to force UCL to provide the necessary additional funding for SPS if the £140,000 of funding is not secured. This may include protests, banner drops, occupations and any other forms of action that the campaign democratically decides to be appropriate.
  • To mandate the DOC and Welfare & International Officers to send out separate all-students emails, amongst other communication channels, specifically to publicise these actions, in consultation with the student campaign group who will provide the text.