Inclusive welfare provision, Worcester College
Colleges have highly developed welfare support in place for students, often involving a large team (Dean, Junior Deans, Welfare Officer, Disability Coordinator), as well as college doctors, chaplains and peer supporters as part of a wider network. There is a challenge to provide joined up welfare support to students within this team environment, whilst also respecting student confidentiality.
The Worcester welfare team identified a problem that they had no consistent and effective way of sharing information between them about their work with students. This made it hard to reliably (OR ‘guarantee the ability to…’) identify a pattern of need/concerning patterns of behaviour relating to individual students (and therefore where they were likely to require targeted support), or the student body as a whole.
The welfare database was created by the IT team in Worcester College for its welfare team. It is part of the larger Worcester student database that also draws information from SITs.
It now provides a single place for the welfare team to make a record of all the incidents they respond to and their interactions with students. (Incidents are unplanned call-outs to difficult/crisis situations; interactions are planned meetings between the welfare team and students.) Each incident or interaction is summarised and can be labelled for follow-up, which provides the basis for the welfare team’s weekly team meeting where tasks are allocated to team members, and group discussion about student cases takes place. Each member of the team can see at a glance what the most recent incidents and interactions have been, as well as all those marked for follow-up, to inform their work.
Each student has a page on the database, with a photograph, a list of the instances when they have accessed college welfare support, as well as additional information from SITs, such as whether they have a Student Support Plan, whether they are registered with the college doctor, etc. This means that if a student was involved in more than one incident over a period of time, there is a definite system whereby this can be identified, and the student effectively supported.
There is also has a reporting tool which allows the college to identify spikes in incidents and interactions overall. In in first year the database was used, the team identified a consistent surge in incidents around the time of college bops, and these were often linked to alcohol. They were able to respond by taking proactive steps to tackle this issue. Adjustments were made to pricing in the college bar, and to how bop nights were manned. Turning Point also came in to talk to students about responsible alcohol use.
Data security: at the beginning of their course, every student is asked to sign a permission form which allows their welfare information to be stored on the database, with access restricted to the welfare team only.
The database is accessible only from the college network using a welfare team log-in, which means that copies of student information cannot be compromised through theft of personal devices, etc. Communications within the team about individual student cases now less frequently takes place via email, as information is shared on the database.
This tool clearly provides benefits to all students, by ensuring effective information sharing to support safeguarding and monitoring of student welfare. However, it is also likely to bring particular benefits for those suffering from mental health disabilities, such as anxiety and depression. An effective information system increases the chances that issues with individual students can be identified at an earlier stage, and appropriate action taken.