An additional €75,000 was allocated to the DCU Counselling Service budget to contribute to the establishment of a line for DCU students to contact 24/7, 365 days a year, said Director of Student Support and Development, Dr Claire Bohan.
The new service, launched on November 19th, aims to provide students with the opportunity to call at any hour and schedule an appointment with a counsellor near them within three days.
Bohan said the service could also provide “potentially immediate access to a counsellor” if needed. She said after hours counselling has never been something they were able to do, and weekends and nights were a period of concern.
The pilot programme which has been in the making for six months is the first of its kind among Irish universities.
“The new service will be of huge benefit for DCU students and will do a huge deal for the waiting times that currently exist,” said DCU Students’ Union VP for Welfare and Equality Aisling Fagan.
“This service will also help our students who go out on placement in particular who may be based in a different county and who can’t access services they might need between the hours of 9-5,” she said.
As of Friday, November 30th, 100 of the 170 people that were on the waiting list to see a counsellor have been given appointments. Bohan said that they wanted to ensure those already waiting were seen to as soon as possible.
DCU have hired an organisation called Inspire Students, which in turn, hires offsite counsellors, who would have their own practices. The management of the service is through the Head of Counselling, Helena Ahern.
“We have a counselling network throughout the entire country,” said Bohan. She said the initiative would be especially beneficial for students on placement who don’t have direct access to the counsellors based in DCU.
“If a student is on teaching placement in Kerry they potentially have a counsellor on their books that they can access in Kerry.”
Queens University in Belfast has a similar system, however, its based on outsourcing. Bohan said they were keen to keep the system within DCU. The Counselling Service currently has 12 counsellors on site some part-time, some full-time. Students receiving offsite counselling will receive the same, free service that onsite counsellors offer, said Bohan.
“All of them have access to and information about and training about all of our services here in the institution,” she said.
Bohan said GDPR issues set them back by around two months, however, they have completed the process with full compliance.
She said other institutions will be watching to see if the initiative is successful in reducing waiting lists. “I can’t but think it has to help,” she said.
Bohan said the issues with waiting lists come at “peak” times. “It’s the peaks that we wanted to deal with and that’s kind of the big thing here”.
She said the service will aim work around the needs of the DCU student body: “If they need more they will take on more”.
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