On Monday 15th July 2019 the ANUK/Unipol National Code is launching a consultation to interested parties on inserting a new section into the Code recognising the importance of wellbeing and mental health support and proposing that all members of the Code should ensure that they meet a specific set of standards as part of their commitment under the Code to provide the best and most appropriate service to their tenants that they can.
 
This is an important step for the National Code and recognises the increasingly specialised characteristics of providing purpose built accommodation (PBSA) for student tenants. Students are special tenants with particular needs and the Code aims to reflect this as it continues to develop.
 
In setting these new standards, the Code has recognised that where accommodation suppliers have nomination links with educational institutions, then health and wellbeing between the supplier, the institution and the student should be as coordinated and seamless as possible. Achieving this will be a challenge for both educational institutions and for housing suppliers. It is also important that wherever possible the individual rights of students are respected and those linked arrangements are both transparent and have the consent of the students involved.
 
When a student is being accommodated by an independent private provider the health and wellbeing owed to the student will be different and is likely to be defined by the contractual relationship with the student tenant. Although the relationship is different “direct let” providers should still know how to offer good wellbeing support, relevant staff should be properly trained and key staff should know how to react both before, during and after any critical incident.
 
The standards we are consulting on are designed to be practical, realistic and will be verified through the National Code’s audit process to ensure that those who say they are meeting the standards that provide assured accommodation, are actually doing so.
 
In drawing up these standards it is important not to over-reach or over-promise, but to make sound and on-going progress. The setting and implementation of these standards also needs to acknowledge to huge variety of private sector providers offering accommodation to students, from the largest provider with around 50,000 student tenants to the smallest with just 16 students: all are being asked to commit to the same standards within the Code.
 
These changes will directly affect around 300,000 student tenants whose accommodation falls under the Code.
 
The new standards being proposed are now open for consultation from members and other interested parties and any comments or observations should be sent to [email protected] 
 
The consultation will close on Friday 23rd August 2019.
 
It is planned to finalise the standards by 16th September 2019, taking into account any changes made as a result of the consultative process. The final standards will come to the Codes Committee of Management on 14th November 2019 for approval and they will then become operational from 1st January 2020. The Code standards allow for a number of milestones to be identified on certain key dates to help those who commit to these standards to have time for a proper period of implementation.
 
We hope to hear from as many interested parties as possible in order that these standards are correct, that they fit the bill and that they have real meaning and outputs: helping to make students’ residential experience, lifestyle and academic achievements better.
 
Further details of the National Codes can be found at https://www.nationalcode.org/
 
Unipol would like to thank all those who have made suggestions in helping to frame these standards and to recognise the important work undertaken by the BPF Working Group and their useful publication Student Wellbeing In Purpose-Built Student Accommodation

The following new standards are being proposed to be added to Section 4 of the Code.

 
Health and Wellbeing
 
Managers will ensure that:
 
4.8 Where they provide accommodation as part of a nominations agreement (for this purpose defined as where a student rents a room in a building suggested or allocated through an educational institution for a period in excess of 12 weeks):

  • the extent and nature of student support offered must be clear to both tenants and providers and information must be provided to tenants in respect of the student support services that are available to them (which may include but not be limited to wellbeing, financial and disability support) and how these services can be accessed.

  • any sharing of tenant information should be covered by an information sharing agreement that outlines clearly what information the provider wishes to be able to share and why and that consent is obtained for such sharing within the contractual arrangements formed between the supplier and the tenant. Where such an agreement is not in place no information sharing should take place.

  • wherever possible, the provider has a named individual within each nominating educational establishment that can be contacted to ensure that information provided to tenants relating to wellbeing issues is up to date and correct and that in the event of a crisis or emergency, that named person can be contacted. In the event that a named individual is not forthcoming from an institution then a job title or particular department address must be obtained.

 
These arrangements should be fully in place and operational from 1st June 2020.
 
4.9       Where they provide accommodation in any arrangement (either direct let or a nominations arrangement):

  • tenants will be provided with information on student support and sources of help relating to wellbeing and mental health issues. This information can be provided on a prominently sited noticeboard accessible to all residents or on a tenant website portal, ideally both.

  • information will be provided on how tenants can register with a local GP practice, or any other appropriate medical service, and that tenants are encouraged to register as soon as possible after they have moved in.

 
4.10     Where they have legitimate concerns that a student may either be at immediate risk of harm (or pose such a risk), procedures have been developed to ensure that relevant organisations are able to be contacted. This would include NHS Crisis Teams or Mental Health Crisis Teams, any educational institution with a legitimate interest and the Police. Where this involves the disclosure of sensitive personal data that this is done on a lawful basis with a substantial public interest in doing so and, wherever possible, the tenant must be told of such a disclosure. These procedures should be reviewed annually.
 
 
4.11     Training is provided, within eight weeks of appointment, enabling managers to be able to act appropriately in situations where a tenant’s behaviour reasonably suggests they are in difficulty and that out of hours staff should have access to information on common types of mental health conditions and the support available to them. Such training and information will also provide means of being able to signpost tenants who may be experiencing a health or wellbeing issue.
 
4.12     Specific training on crisis management is provided to staff in order to help them to manage an incident. The training will cover (at the least) what practical actions should be taken, what help and assistance can be offered to the tenants and staff affected and what practical actions should be taken after the incident. A record of on-site incidents and crises should be maintained together with a narrative outcome.
 
The training requirement must be met not later than 30th March 2020