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STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH: Bill being introduced to the House of Lords

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH: Bill being introduced to the House of Lords

Image: SWNS

Universities could be forced to have a legal duty for student mental health, under a new bill being introduced to the House of Lords.

The bill, introduced by Conservative peer Lord Ralph Lucas, would also require unis to give students the option for staff to call a parent if they are in crisis.

Several parents including those of students who have killed themselves have publicly said their children would still be alive if they had been contacted.

The bill includes measures which would require unis to record contact details for every student of a person to be contacted in an emergency.

The 'Student Mental Health Bill' would also ''set out a duty on such providers to support student mental health”.

The University of Bristol introduced a similar opt-in scheme and 93 per cent of students gave details for somebody – not necessarily a parent – to be contacted in an emergency.

Lord Lucas told student news site The Tab there has been a “fundamental failing of care” from universities towards their students.

He said: “These are young people in their care.

''They’re taking on a large debt, you owe them a comprehensive duty of care and interest, and you’re not setting yourselves up to fulfil that'.''

He believes there hasn’t yet been legislation to force universities to look after students like this, and adds “I think suicides are the nasty tip of a big iceberg.”

Universities argue that data protection – and students’ rights as adults – mean they cannot contact parents or share information without their consent.

Lucas has put the bill forward as a private member’s bill, which are prioritised by a ballot of the members of the House of Lords.

Bills which come high enough in the ballot go through several stages in the Lords, before being picked up by an MP and taken to the Commons.

However, Lord Lucas says the measures have a slim chance of making it into law in this form.

He said: “It has a five per cent chance of being close enough to the top of the list to be on early enough to make it through the Commons”.

From 2017 to 2019, just one of 75 bills introduced in the Lords as private members’ bills became law.

Words: Grey Barradale, South West News Service

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