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University of Surrey Furloughed Two Mental Health Staff During Lockdown

A photo of the Centre for Wellbeing, a one-storey brick building with blue sign
Credit: University of Surrey

BREAKING: Two university counsellors were furloughed during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown.

By Bethany Dawson

The University of Surrey has confirmed that two counsellors from the Centre for Wellbeing, the mental health and wellbeing support centre for students and staff, were furloughed during lockdown. 

One student explains the impact of this move: 

“After a long time struggling with my mental health, I finally decided to reach out to the Centre for Wellbeing. I was offered 3 mindfulness sessions, and after the first one – which occurred nine days after my initial assessment – my therapist was put on furlough. I was in such a dark, depressed place that I didn’t have the energy or motivation to reschedule”. 

This move by the University came during a time when University students moved back home after the University of Surrey closed its campus due to rising numbers of Covid-19 across the country. 

These furloughs contrast the decisions made by the University of St George’s and King’s College London, both of whom hired additional mental health support staff during the pandemic, an FOI request reveals. 

Laura Smythson, Head of Wellbeing and Welfare at the University of Surrey, tells Incite: “With the majority of our students having returned home, and with these service enhancements in place, there was a significant drop in demand for counselling appointments. In this context, while the majority of our counsellors continued to work, two part-time members of our counselling team were furloughed by the University on full pay.”

“This did not affect the service we were able to provide, with waiting times falling during lockdown and remaining low after these staff were furloughed. All staff returned to work before the start of term, and our Centre for Wellbeing team are all focused on continuing to provide excellent support to students who need it.”

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