Privacy and confidentiality

The Student Counselling Service is an organisational member of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). This means we must abide by the BACP Ethical Framework for the counselling professions and BACP membership policies and protocols.

Who this statement covers

This statement covers all services that the Student Counselling Service provides to students and staff. Confidentiality applies to students as clients of the service and not to parents or third parties who may contact the service.

All administrative staff and any external consultants who provide us with services are also obliged to comply with this statement.

Students in groups

Students within groups should also protect the confidentiality of groups members, by not sharing any information disclosed by another member of the group or personal details such as name, course, level of study or any other information that may lead to the student being identified. It is the counsellor's role to ensure students understand group confidentiality principles.

How we gain consent to process your data

The Student Counselling Service gathers your consent when you attend your first appointment. We encourage you to read the working agreement and consent form before attending your first appointment.

Read the working agreement and consent form

Consent for your data to be processed when you complete a Request wellbeing support form, is gathered by Student Services, which has its own confidentiality policy that also explains exceptions and limitations to confidentiality.

This statement is specific to the Student Counselling Service, and applies in addition to the Student Services confidentiality policy.

How to register with the service

You may be referred to the Student Counselling Service when you complete a Request wellbeing support form or when you call +44 (0)117 456 9860 (9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday) to request support. The service will then contact you to register.

Your first appointment

As part of the first appointment, you will:

  • confirm you have read the counselling confidentiality statement
  • establish the limits of confidentiality
  • have the opportunity to update consent to liaise with other services including opt-in
  • sign the working agreement

You can decline and update consent to liaise at any stage, but this may affect the support we can offer. We advise you to explore and discuss consent during your initial appointment.

Limitations to privacy and confidentiality

Student Counselling Service abide by the Student Agreement and the Data Protection Policy.

Information given by the student to the service will be treated as confidential; there are limits to confidentiality.

The Student Counselling Service will breach confidentiality if there is an imminent risk of harm to self and others (to protect your vital interests or those of another person), including children and vulnerable adults, and in the event of significant illegal activities.

The Student Counselling Service will follow the Mental Ill Health Emergency Response Protocol, the Student Emergency Contact Procedure, and the Opt-In Procedure when the risk and potential for harm is deemed great enough. The Student Counselling Service will always try to inform you if they are going to breach confidentiality, although this may not always be possible.

In these situations, the Student Counselling Service may have to breach confidentiality with the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Parents
  • Concerned friends
  • Courts (release of notes)
  • Coroners
  • Academic departments
  • Other student support services
  • NHS
  • Counter-terrorism (via prevent duty)

Emergency contact and opt-in

The University has an ‘opt-in’ policy regarding contacting an emergency contact if you are having a mental health crisis.

If you have consented for your emergency contact to be informed the Student Counselling Service will inform the Student Wellbeing Service, or Resident life Service so they can implement this policy.

You may request that an alternative contact is informed (not your emergency contact) if you are having a mental health crisis; you must inform the Student Counselling Service of this alternative contact, and this change will only be applicable to the Student Counselling Service. This should be confirmed with you by your counsellor in your first session and you can change this at any point by informing your counsellor or contacting the Student Counselling Service.

If you have not consented to ‘opt in’ or changed your mind, the Student Counselling Service (Student Counselling Service) will follow their internal management of risk policy and the Student Emergency Contact Procedure in emergency situations.

Parents may also raise concerns directly with the University of Bristol and the Student Counselling Service via the Report and Support tool.

Complaints

If you’re not happy with the service you have received, we ask that in the first instance you talk to the member of staff you have been having support from and seek Early Resolution as per the Student Complaints Procedure. If this is not possible, or if you feel the issue has not been resolved, please email the service at student-counselling@bristol.ac.uk for the attention of the Head of Service. If you are unable to approach the Student Counselling Service with your complaint you can follow the Student Complaints Procedure in full.

Evidence for extenuating circumstances

You can submit any e-mails that include details of appointment offers and registration with the service as well as the e-mail you receive after your initial consultation as evidence when applying for extenuating circumstances.

If academic boards require more in-depth information, the duty manager in the Student Counselling Service can provide this by phone to the academic member of staff, provided we have your consent to liaise. Bristol SU can provide more information about the extenuating circumstances process.

Child protection/ safeguarding

If it is thought that there is a serious risk to a child the service will follow the University Safeguarding policy, the guidelines laid down by child protection legislation and the Student Counselling Service internal risk management policy.

Research/professional development

The Student Counselling Service staff will always seek your consent using the Continual Professional Development (CPD) Consent From and CPD Standard Operating Procedure) to use your information in any research, training or professional development such as BACP accreditation and will always endeavour to protect your identity.

Fitness to study

Fitness to study relates to your capacity to participate fully and satisfactorily as a student in relation to academic studies and life generally at the University of Bristol.

If you tell us that you do not feel fit to study, or if we have concerns that you are not fit to study, we will explore this with you within the support we are providing and suggest that you talk to the Student Wellbeing Service or Resident life Service and your personal tutor/supervisor.

The Student Counselling Service will always attempt to work collaboratively with you. The Student Counselling Service will only break confidentiality if we believe that you or a member of the public could be at risk of harm. We would also follow the Mental ill health emergency response protocol and the Student Counselling Service’s internal risk management policy.

It would not be appropriate for the Student Counselling Service staff to attend fitness to study case reviews or fitness to study panels. With your consent the Student Counselling Service may contribute information to the fitness to study process.

Fitness to practice

If you are enrolled in a Professional Programme you must refer to your department’s documentation (as applicable to your profession) in order to make yourself aware of the principles of professional behaviour and the professional behaviour expected of you.

If you tell us that you do not feel fit to practice or if we have concerns that you are not fit to practice we will explore this with you within the support we are providing and suggest that you talk to the nominated person in your department and the Student Wellbeing Service or Resident life Service.

It would not be appropriate for The Student Counselling Service staff to attend fitness to practice case reviews or fitness to practice panels. With your consent The Student Counselling Service may contribute information to the fitness to practice process.

Jurisdiction

The provision of counselling services by The Student Counselling Service of the University of Bristol is carried out in under English Law and subject to United Kingdom regulatory requirements. Any dispute arising out of the provision of these counselling services are, therefore, subject to English law and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

Privacy statement

The Student Counselling Service and the University need to collect and process personal data in order to function effectively as an educational institution and to provide you with the support you require while undertaking your studies. Personal data is processed for a variety of reasons as set out in the Student Fair Processing Notice.

What information does the Student Counselling Service keep?

We keep administrative and clinical records of all contacts with you, all liaisons with services and all supervisory processes.

How long do we keep information for?

We keep records for 6 years following data protection legislation.

What does the Student Counselling Service use my information for?

To inform and direct counselling and the support you receive. Anonymised data is used in reports to the University and others to account for service use, impact and effectiveness of counselling.

Why do we ask for your consent to liaise with others?

In order to offer joint or multidisciplinary care and joint working to support students with multiple needs your consent is needed for us to liaise with other services. Other services or staff in the University will use the information we provide to inform the support they provide for you.

What do we share with others?

We will always share information on a need-to-know basis, only sharing what is needed.

How long is the consent given for?

Consent is given for the duration of your time at the University. You can change your consent at any time by emailing the service at student-counselling@bristol.ac.uk.

You can decline consent to liaise at any stage, but this may affect the support we can offer. We advise you to explore and discuss consent in your initial consultation.

There are limitations to privacy and confidentiality (see 2.) due to statutory duties where the law requires disclosure, if there is an imminent risk of harm to self and others (to protect your vital interests or those of another person) or in the event of serious illegal activities. The Student Counselling Service will follow BACP guidelines, Mental ill health emergency response protocol and the Student Emergency Contact Procedure.

Questions or comments

If you have any questions or comments regarding this notice or you wish to exercise any of your rights (as set out in the Student personal data fair processing notice), you should contact the duty manager in the Student Counselling Service and the University Data Protection Officer by emailing data-protection@bristol.ac.uk or phone +44117 39 41824.

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