A specialist team at Sunderland College is providing vital mental health support to its students and addressing the growing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on their emotional wellbeing.
The college’s Intensive Support Team, which includes an Intensive Support Manager, Intensive Support Officers, Designated Safeguarding Officers and Counsellors, provides individual and group support to students who are experiencing mental health or wellbeing issues.
The team of dedicated staff is offering additional support during the summer and start of term, for new and returning students, to reduce the impact of the pandemic on their progression.
Ruth Magnus, Director of Student Services at Sunderland College, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional stress to everyone’s daily lives, especially for students with pre-existing mental health conditions. As we adapt to new circumstances, it’s essential that our students feel supported and nurtured and that we do everything we can to protect their mental health and wellbeing.
“Our dedicated Intensive Support Team ensures that there is always someone for students to turn to and provide them with the support they need.”
During the suspension of face-to-face teaching due to COVID-19, the college ensured its Bede Campus remained open for vulnerable students and students of key workers.
Since lockdown, the Intensive Support Team have undertaken over 3,000 welfare checks for vulnerable groups of students and 471 virtual counselling appointments, which included 50 new referrals during the pandemic and continued support for students already receiving counselling.
This has been supported by daily live chat, Facebook Live sessions focusing on mental health and wellbeing, and virtual workshops on specific issues such as isolation, resilience and anxiety.
Sessions will continue over the summer to support new and returning students, in addition to a freshers’ event for the start of term, an extended induction programme with an interactive resource hub, support groups and a parent and carer welcome event with a programme of workshops across the academic year.
Sunderland College is part of Education Partnership North East, one of the largest college groups in the country. The Intensive Support Team works across the whole college group, which also includes Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.
Vikkie Morton, Vice Principal of Student Services and Registry across Education Partnership North East, said:
“Our Intensive Support Team is an invaluable resource. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Intensive Support has continued with access to campuses for vulnerable students and face-to-face access to Intensive Support Officers. All safeguarded and vulnerable students have had weekly calls from the Intensive Support Team and calls are continuing over the summer to support transitioning students.”
To ensure the most vulnerable students are supported, every student who is care experienced, a young adult carer or a young parent is allocated an Intensive Support Officer who provides support, links to external support and services and group support.
93% of students who accessed the counselling service across the college group felt it had impacted their ability to remain in college and 100% agreed it helped them perform better with their academic work. Students commented that “it helped me to change my mind set and think more positively” and “just having someone to talk to and vent helped massively during this lockdown period”.
Sunderland College will fully re-open all its campuses in September, with additional measures to keep students, staff and visitors safe. To apply for a course for this September, visit sunderlandcollege.ac.uk
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