Health and wellbeing standards in student accommodation Code
All education institutions acknowledge that their primary purpose is to achieve positive outcomes for all of their students. In order to realise that goal, institutions must understand and work within the framework of challenges posed by the particular characteristics of their student body.
Attention has been focussed recently on student wellbeing, in particular the incidence of mental ill health amongst the student population. Research suggests that a not insignificant proportion of students enrol at universities and colleges with pre-existing mental health problems. Many of those problems will manifest themselves in halls of residence, particularly those students who struggling with the transition from home to independent living.
In response to these challenges, the ANUK/Unipol Code for standards in student accommodation managed and controlled by education establishments contains a set of standards for students’ health and wellbeing. ANUK/Unipol have now launched a consultation on a proposal to include a similar set of standards in the Code for private sector student accommodation, which is due to be implemented in January 2020. It states that where accommodation is provided as part of a nominations agreement (i.e. through an educational institution for a period in excess of 12 weeks), health and wellbeing between the supplier, the education institution and the student should be co-ordinated and seamless, with clear information available on the extent and nature of student support offered and an information-sharing agreement in place, subject to students’ consent.
Institutions often find themselves having to compensate for the resource constraints suffered by the health service and other statutory agencies. It is very useful therefore to have to identify the extent of the support provided and hence to manage expectations in halls, and to confine that support to areas within an institution’s professional competence.
Institutions should also be mindful of the following:
• Don’t promise what you cannot deliver
• Clearly describe what you can deliver
• Set out the limits of your support services e.g. mental health advisers are not medical practitioners
• Ensure that assumptions are not made about students with mental ill–health e.g. making assumptions about risks to safety of other residents
• Ensure that policies are appropriately applied in halls e.g. fitness to reside/engage rather than disciplinary, punitive processes, depending on the circumstances
• Respect duties of confidentiality and disclose information about a student’s ill health to third parties only where:
(i) you have the student’s explicit consent; or
(ii) it is necessary to protect the student’s vital interests and they are physically or mentally incapable of giving consent; or
where a student is under 18, where it is necessary to protect them from harm (safeguarding).