The Mancunion

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£153,500 saved for students by Union advice service

Free, confidential service offered by Students’ Union providing information and advice on personal and academic issues has helped students save thousands of pounds

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This year, the Students’ Union Advice Service has advised 3074 students, a three per cent increase from 2015/16. The total saved by the service’s successful cases was £153,459.

The figure is also likely to be conservative since students who apply for the Manchester Hardship Fund often fail to notify the Service upon receipt.

It is the first year that there has only been an increase in the number of academic cases (by 18 per cent).  There has been a decrease in all other types of cases: finance (by five per cent), housing (by three per cent), and well-being (by six per cent).

However, the report states that the 18 per cent rise in students seeking advice on academic issues may be a result of the fact that bullying and harassment cases — themselves continuing to rise since 2014 — are being increasingly referred through subject-based support services.

There were marginally fewer students asking for advice on housing issues; though inquiries about council tax and contract details rose by nine and 14 per cent, respectively.

There was a 23 per cent increase (to 103) of students seeking advice on mental health. The Advice Service does not employ counsellors; rather, it explains the options that are available. Some members of staff have been trained in rudimentary well-being techniques, such as mindfulness, to help deal with this demand.

The number of students that had been the victim of a scam rose by 64 per cent. International students were most commonly targeted — often by faux Home Office accounts threatening deportation. The Advice Service will be working with the university in the Atrium during Welcome Week to help raise awareness about such scams.

The Advice Service has received the most positive feedback to date, with great case outcomes and a record number of successful academic appeals.

During Welcome Week and the first week of term — the busiest of the year — the Advice Service operated a drop-in service only. By operating in this way, quick queries were answered more efficiently and appointment time was freed up for more complex issues.  This drop-in-only service will continue in 2017/18.

The Service provides advice via telephone, email, drop-in, and appointment. The former saw a 73 per cent increase, whilst the rest each rose by one per cent. This rise in telephone calls is mostly explained by the introduction of a staff rota system after difficulties in the previous year.