Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group minutes: 2 May 2019

Notes of the meeting held on 2 May 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Gareth Allen, Advanced Learning and Science  Directorate, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • James Boyce, Advanced Learning and Science Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Stevie Boal, Advanced Learning and Science Directorate, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Steven Paxton, Advanced Learning and Science Directorate, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
  • Jennifer Russell, Mental Health Integration Manager, South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Professor Pamela Gilles, Vice-Chancellor,  Glasgow Caledonian University and Mental Health Lead for Universities Scotland
  • Lynne Currie, Universities Scotland
  • Nicola Dickie, Chief Officer, Children and Young People, COSLA
  • Janet Merchant, Intern, Jo Cox Foundation
  • Fiona Drouet, Emily Test
  • Lauren McNamara, Director of Strategy and Innovation, SAAS
  • Ronnie Millar, Director, Student Counselling Service, University of Edinburgh and Heads of University Counseling Services
  • Jill Stevenson, Head of Student Support Services and Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at University of Stirling and  Executive Member, AMOSSHE
  • Colin Sinclair, Chief Executive, NHS Scotland National Services
  • Brian Magee, Chief Executive, COSCA 
  • Kirsten Amis, Lecturer, Glasgow Clyde College and BACP
  • Alan Sherry, Principle, Glasgow Kelvin College and Colleges Scotland
  • Gavin Bruce, Assistant Director Funding, Scottish Funding Council
  • Fiona Burns, Assistant Director Outcomes, Access (Access Policy Lead), Scottish Funding Council
  • David Livey, Campaigns and Engagement Manager, NUS Scotland
  • Keir McKechnie, SAMH, Mentally Healthy College Coordinator, Glasgow Clyde College


  • Francis Harrower, Colleges Scotland
  • Steve Mulligan, BACP

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introduction

The chair welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Working Group.

2. Working group remit

The group discussed the paper outlining  the remit of the working group. It welcomed the remit as set out, and proposed that the following should also be added to the remit:

  • to examine where gaps exit across the sectors in the provision of mental health and well-being support to students
  • to learn from best practice around  transitions from school to college and university and effective existing local partnerships
  • to encourage approaches to developing shared services and referral pathways and staff supervision, and
  • and to develop an approach to monitoring and evaluation within an enhancement framework

The remit will be revised  to reflect  these comments, and an updated remit shared with the working group at  its next meeting.

3. Scottish Funding Council: Mental Health Baseline Survey AY 2018-2019 summary and Mental Health Support in Colleges and Universities key facts

3.1 Scottish Funding Council: Mental Health Baseline Survey AY 2018-2019 summary

Fiona Burns spoke to the summary report of the Mental Health Baseline survey the SFC had undertaken with institutions in January 2019.  

The group noted the report.

3.2 Mental Health Support in Colleges and Universities Key Facts

Stevie Boal spoke to the infographic highlighting the increased demand for mental health services and setting out the difference between the college and university sector in the employment of counsellors, waiting times and the impact of mental health issues on retention rates.

The group noted the infographic.

In discussion of the two items, the group noted that the SFC baseline survey set out to capture current provision and demand and noted that NUS Scotland, through its Think Positive campaign, supported by the Scottish Government would be undertaking research, commencing in the autumn on, amongst other things, the student experience. The group also recognised that there are a number of existing initiatives across the sector, including, on line platforms, such as the Big White Wall, to help students.

The group discussed the importance of evaluating the outcomes for students of counsellors in the sector. In that regard, the Heads of University Counselling Services (HUCS) had produced a report setting out the impact of counselling services in a university setting and Ronnie Millar kindly agreed to share the report with the group. In addition, the College Counselling Network Scotland, the professional development network for college counsellors, had developed a combined Assessment Tool and Outcome Measure for use in colleges.

The group emphasised the merits of a regional, collaborative approach, underpinned by an agreed evaluation framework, whereby colleges, universities, NHS Scotland, local authority and third sector services work in effective local partnership. This would require exploration of how to develop effective, supportive referral pathways together with robust assessments, including triage arrangements.

4. Scottish workforce survey

Kirsten Amis spoke to the report of the  survey of BACP members. She added that BACP and SQA were working to develop an SQA Level 9 Award for counselling for children and young people. It was anticipated that the course would start in August. 

The group noted the position with professional bodies being accredited with the professional standards authority.

The group noted the BACP report.

5. Student mental health and wellbeing working group: implementation tasks, aims and guiding principles

Steven Paxton spoke to the paper setting out the implementation tasks, aims and guiding principles of the group.

The group discussed the importance of transitions, especially from schools to colleges and universities, and of promoting positive mental health across the education sector. The discussion highlighted the need for safe and secure referral pathways, the need for engagement with partners, and an understanding of the dynamics and partnership pathways which exemplified excellent service planning and delivery, underpinned by local collaborative arrangements.

The group requested that its comments on this report inform the refining of the group’s remit (agenda item 2).

6. Draft student mental health funding and guidance principles

Fiona Burns tabled a draft paper outlining, for discussion, the proposed funding and guidance principles to inform the allocation of resources to institutions

In discussion, Nicola Dickie advised that COSLA had prepared a set of guideline principles in its work with the Scottish Government in relation to the provision of counsellors in schools and offered to share these with the SFC.

The group discussed the possibilities opened up by regional approaches, whereby colleges and universities share investment and resources. The group noted the advantage in institutions having an embedded counsellor, but that it is not necessary that all colleges and universities are the employer of the counsellor and that consideration be given to a flexibility of arrangements, such that counselling services can be purchased from other providers.

Whole system approaches should be developed in colleges and universities, that include a range of interventions to support metal health and wellbeing, of which counselling is an integrated part. The question was raised, if any funding could be utilised for wider and preventative mental health initiatives.

David Livey, NUS Scotland, highlighted that while the sector has developed mental health services at different rates, there should be a focus on ensuring that students have equitable access to the same level of mental health support/services. Resources should be focused where there is a lack of provision, particularly in the college sector.

The group were in the main content, noting however NUS Scotland’s concerns around resources for institutions where there is lack of provision, with the proposal for separate allocation letters to the sectors with a view to releasing the university allocation first and building in more consultation time with college principals, and agreed that the funding and guidance principles be considered again by the group at its next meeting, including the factors that could inform specific allocations.

7. Date of next meeting

The group agreed to meet again, if possible at the end of May/beginning of June. The Scottish Government will canvass suitable dates.

Suggested topics include:

  • further consideration of the funding and guidance principles
  • overview of current effective practice, including institutions, NHS, local authorities and third sector working together across geographies
  • update on research being considered
  • update on the CAMHS taskforce

The meeting ended at 16:00 hours.

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