Minister Harris announces €5 million in Student Supports (24/08/2020)

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Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (24/08/2020) announced a comprehensive financial package of €5 million to support students' wellbeing and mental health.

This significant funding increase comes at a time of great urgency around student support and re-opening planning for the next academic year. It reflects the original €2 million funding for student mental health and wellbeing allocated to higher education for 2020 along with a further €3 million as a response to COVID-19.

The funding will be used to

· Recruit additional Student Counsellors;

· Recruit additional Assistant Psychologists;

· Implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions;

· Implementation of the soon to be published National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework.

The HEA will be contacting higher education institutions in the coming week setting out individual allocations and the conditions attaching to the use of these funds in support of student services, student well-being and mental health.

Minister Harris said: "The number one health issue for young people in Ireland today is concerns or worries around their mental health. These concerns have been compounded by the isolation and uncertainly brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For students, the college experience has been different this year from ever before. Students have had to adjust to remote learning and carried out without face to face support from their college or their peers.

"For these reasons, I have sought to support student counselling services, key mental health interventions and the provision of a safe, respectful, supportive and positive environment in our higher education institutions.

"This will help us support students as they return to college in this Covid world."

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Alan Wall, Chief Executive Officer, HEA said:

"This additional support, being provided by the Minister, is a welcome boost to a higher education sector that enrols in the region of 55,000 new students each year. These young and not-so-young students engage in higher education at a sometimes-challenging time of change and progression in their lives. This is a sizeable proportion of our population, and while our health and community services work to support everyone, there can be environmentally specific or transitional issues that arise for both current and new students in higher education.

"We will be encouraging institutional leaders to use these new resources to foreground student supports, to build on existing capacity, and to provide better bridges between the various service providers locally, regionally and nationally."