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Duty of Care

University of Sunderland - UK On-Campus students (Sunderland & London)
The University has a duty of care to our student community. This is supported by our University Policies and Regulations within our legal framework of duty of care. This is informed by both the adult status of our students and the need to take reasonable steps to provide a safe, secure environment that supports positive wellbeing and good mental health for students who live and work in a shared community. The University should provide information, guidance and support for students so that they can make informed choices to shape their actions. The particular care of students who are minors is addressed via specific policy under Safeguarding.

The University will always take reasonable steps to support students in difficulty but recognises a shared responsibility between student and University to assure both personal wellbeing and safety. The University recognises both the proportionate capacity of its Support Services and the role of wider NHS statutory services in the immediate and on-going support of our students.

University of Sunderland - Off-Campus students - UK and Overseas
The University has a duty of care to our student community. This is supported by our University Policies and Regulations within our legal framework of duty of care. This is informed by both the adult status of our students and the need to provide a safe, secure environment which supports positive Wellbeing and good mental health for students.

The University requires Partner Centres to provide appropriate student support for our students in their local context. The University has a responsibility to ensure that this support is in place via its established QA procedures.

Consent to Disclose Policy

We encourage all students to ‘opt in’, providing consent to disclose in the event of you being seriously unwell. Please read this policy for further information.
University of Sunderland

Student Consent to Disclose
This Policy authorises University staff to contact a NAMED THIRD PARTY identified by a student in the event of that student being seriously unwell (properly defined).The University believes this, with appropriate safeguards in place, to be in a student’s best interest.

The University Policy is that:
- Consent should be sought from individual students
- The approach is one of “opt-in”
- All students have the right to make an informed choice to “opt in” or not. A student can opt-out at any time but must inform the University in writing.
- This decision will be subject to annual review at enrolment and amendment in line with student choice
- Definitions of “seriously unwell” will be by way of clear examples/scenarios (appendix 1) and in section 2 (below).
- These examples will be made clear to students at the point of opt-in at Enrolment
- The University will use a NAMED THIRD PARTY (or not, if no consent) where there is a serious concern as defined by this Policy to be both pre-emptive and precautionary. This is without prejudice to the established and current “Next of Kin” contact provided by a student on enrolment which is reactive, used in extreme or emergency situations and in a wider set of circumstances than (only) serious health concerns. This emergency contact may be the same (or not) as the NAMED THIRD PARTY as determined by the student. (See note 2 below)
- Specific and additional policy for students who are under 18 at the time of admission to University are covered in appendix 2.

1. The student enrolment process, (as now), will include the option to provide details of a NAMED THIRD PARTY. This can be a next of kin, family member, or “trusted other”. This will also allow for the identification of any first language preference for the identified NAMED THIRD PARTY.
2. The decision to provide such a contact will be informed by a clear statement of purpose:
“In providing an emergency contact you are providing explicit agreement and consent that in certain circumstances the University will have the right and responsibility to contact that NAMED THIRD PARTY. Those circumstances are when the University has serious cause for concern about your health and wellbeing, both physical and mental and any associated behaviours.
This can include, for example:
- i. When a student is judged to present a serious risk of harm to self or others
- ii. When a student has attempted suicide
- iii. When a student has engaged in repeated and serious self-harm and which may be increasing in either or severity or frequency.
- iv. When a student has a complex mental health condition (e.g. Psychosis, schizophrenia) which is affecting behaviour and associated risk(s) and where this is not being managed and/or where there is concern about student’s ability to look after themselves.
- v. When there is evidence that student has a plan, means and intent to attempt suicide and there are judged to be insufficient or inadequate “protective” factors to safeguard the student”.

3. In any of these circumstances appropriate, designated University staff will take a decision to inform the NAMED THIRD PARTY. This should normally be based on the informed judgement of the Wellbeing Team (in conjunction with senior Wellbeing staff) and where circumstances demand and allow, with their direct involvement.
4. In some circumstances the student of concern will be in contact with University support services. If this is not the case but there are concerns, then the University will make all reasonable efforts to contact the student by both email and mobile phone and alert them to the need for NAMED THIRD PARTY involvement. If these attempts are unsuccessful the University, based on the level of established risk and concern, will make contact with the NAMED THIRD PARTY.
5. University staff will share concerns with the contact who while being informed of the circumstances, will be asked to provide any appropriate information and/or intervention/support. The University in association with the relevant external services, will continue to provide appropriate support to the student.
6. In these circumstances the University will ordinarily contact an appropriate health professional such as a GP or where necessary, the Crisis Team. If a student in these circumstances is assessed by any NHS services and/or taken under NHS statutory care, the University will make every effort to inform the NAMED THIRD PARTY while a student remains in the direct care of the University. Where this is not possible due to constraints of time, urgency or availability of a NAMED THIRD PARTY, the NHS will be expected to adopt standard protocol for informing next of kin.

7. It is a student’s decision whether to opt in and agree for their circumstances to be shared.
8. A student has the right to choose not to consent to share under the definitions provided in this Policy. In that case the University will not share any information with the NAMED THIRD PARTY as set out under this Policy.
Decision Review
9. The University will ask all students each year at the point of Enrolment via the step in e-vision:

i. To review and confirm their original decision
ii. To confirm or change the named contact
iii. To opt-out
10. It is the student’s responsibility to do this. The University will always act on the basis of this information.
11. A student will be able to change their decision at any time – unless they are appropriately assessed by a University Wellbeing professional and/or NHS professional and deemed unfit to do so; or in discussion with the student, there is clear and compelling evidence that the student will be put at significant risk if a contact is made.

12. Policy and Procedure Review

This Policy and the procedure which supports it will be reviewed annually by appropriate University staff, the USSU and students. This can include:

- The student experience of using the process
- The level of up-take (opt-in/opt- out)
- Any indication of positive or negative impact of using the system on students
- The experience of University staff in using and supporting students in the use of the system.
1. There may be other circumstances when the University will be obliged to share concerns with the NHS or other external agencies for reasons or legality, Safeguarding or other identified risks to self/others. This is covered by individual confidentiality agreements between a student and University services. This will not however include informing a 3rd party contact if a student has not given express consent.
2. The University will sometimes be required to contact a next of kin/emergency contact in “routine” circumstances wider than those described in this Policy. This is established University protocol and may include, for example, accident, physical illness or hospitalisation. This differs from this Policy of opt-in consent where the circumstances to contact a 3rd party will be related to and defined by serious health concerns and specifically mental health and where urgent and crisis situations are “in play”.

October 2019

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