Written answers

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Higher Education Institutions

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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168. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the implementation of a model (details supplied) for student well-being has been explored for Irish higher education institutions; if so, the estimated cost of the implementation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26720/21]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The support and wellbeing of our students is a priority for my Department.

In November 2020, I launched a new National Framework to address the issues of student mental health and suicide prevention. This Framework is Ireland’s first ever national approach to address student mental health and suicide prevention.

The Framework was developed in collaboration with students, mental health and suicide prevention specialists, academics, researchers and institutional staff. The Framework delivers on a commitment to develop national guidelines for the higher education institutions (HEIs) in relation to suicide risk and critical incident response, thereby helping to address any gaps which might exist in the prevention of suicide in higher education. The Framework additionally recognises the many challenges students face, and sets out ways in which institutions can support and respond through working proactively to maximise mental health and wellbeing.

In 2020, I also secured a comprehensive package of financial supports which included additional funding of €3m to underpin wellbeing and mental health and student services in our HEIs, and is in addition to the €2m that was allocated in Budget 2020. This funding enabled institutions to enhance their student facing services, such as by employing additional student Counsellors, Assistant Psychologists etc.

I'm very encouraged that the Framework and the additional funding has had immediate impact: many institutions reported no students on a waiting list to access counselling coming into the Christmas break. Recruitment and on boarding of new staff continues and the increased capacity has created a lot of activity in outreach to students.

I will ask the HEA to bring the information the Deputy has supplied to the attention of the Steering Group the HEA convenes to guide and advise on the ongoing implementation of Ireland’s National Framework.


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