Lancaster University Counselling Service is not fit for purpose

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Over summer I have been looking into the current provision for counselling. I watched with great interest as ‘The Base’ was refurbished with the knowledge that the new consultation rooms for the counselling service were going to be in there. When I ran for the role of Equality, Welfare and Diversity officer one of my main goals was to see significant improvements made to the service.

The refurbishment of ‘The Base’ has given the Counselling Service two consultation rooms, when we consider the fact there are three counsellors on pay roll this seems like and under provision, it also seems like a clear signal that there is no intention in the Universities current plans to increase the number of counsellors or attempt to restructure or improve the service, so I feel it is up to the students to show them exactly what they need to change and improve on.

There is also an issue in ‘The Base’ in that the rooms themselves are, in my opinion, not fit for purpose. They have glass walls, and while they are partially frosted I don’t think this is appropriate. The decor, not to be too picky, is also ghastly white walls with bright danger-red carpets and soulless IKEA furniture. I would personally much prefer to go back to an arrangement where the counsellors have their own consultation rooms with a more comfortable setting, more relaxed, less business like. In all honesty, I just want to see the whole service become less brisk business, and more fluffy. All the talk of waiting lists, figures, numbers of sessions available and funding crisis’ makes a service put in place for the welfare of our students sound like a production line.

Coming to University is, for many students,  a completely revolutionary transition where they find themselves under pressures put on them through academic, social and financial factors. One in four people will have a mental health problem at some point in their life, and it is my belief that the pressures of university can exacerbate mental health problems.

I have been doing some research into people’s experiences with the service this summer, and the feedback in some instances has been shocking. The service has been described as “not fit for purpose”, “awful, impersonal, pushed for time and somewhat abrasive”. This is clearly not the best reception from students.

There is also the issue of self-referral which essentially means you have to fill in a form describing what’s ‘wrong’ with you. This impersonal system is yet another barrier put between students and consultation.

I am bringing a motion to LUSU council on Wednesday the 17th, and if it passes I will be lobbying the University for an Increased Number of counseling staff, appropriate consultation spaces, a student friendly and personal referral system, and an independent quality review of the service seeking to identify ways in which it should be improved.

I hope I can count on the support of the student body to support this campaign, and the students who are being negatively affected by the poor standard of counseling at Lancaster University.

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