Student Advice and Support Service. Code of Practice

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1 Student Advice and Support Service Code of Practice Page 1

2 Table of Contents Section Page 1. Aims and Principles of the Service 2 2. Terms of Reference 2 3. Confidentiality Policy 3 4. Equal Opportunities Policy 6 5. Lone Working Policy- seeing clients 6 6. Conflict of Interest Policy 6 7. Restrictions to Service Policy 7 8. Complaints Policy and Procedures 7 9. Social Policy Issues Staff Professional Development Policy Quality of Advice Service Development 8 Appendices Complaints Policy Complaints monitoring form Client Details Form Authorisation to Act form Advice Recording Sheet

3 1. Aims and Principles of the Service Aims: 1. To provide clear, accurate, relevant and useful information and advice to students, prospective students, recent graduates, parents and, in certain circumstances, dependents of students of Loughborough University. 2. To ensure that whilst at Loughborough University students are not disadvantaged by a lack of knowledge of their rights, entitlements and responsibilities and that they are able to make informed decisions to resolve, for themselves, difficulties they may encounter. 3. To provide advocacy, representation and support for clients when necessary. 4. To identify social policy issues that are affecting a significant number of students, and be proactive to resolve these issues, or raise awareness of them. 5. To contribute to the recruitment and retention of students; enhancing the student experience. 6. To provide advice and share professional knowledge with other university departments in relation to student issues or wider policies, subject to our confidentiality policy. Principles: 1. We provide free, confidential, impartial and non-judgemental advice to our clients. 2. We are committed to equality and diversity and value the positive aspects of our differences. 3. Our service will be accessible to all Loughborough University students through a variety of means e.g. face to face consultation, outreach events, telephone, , our website and appropriate social media sites, subject to site limitations. 4. We act in the best interests of our clients and always put their interests before our own, subject to regulatory and legal requirements. 2. Terms of Reference Student Advice and Support Service members of staff work within the framework of the Loughborough University Students Charter and University Policies. Student Advice and Support Service is a member of AdviceUK and work within their membership requirements. Student Advice and Support Service members of staff work within the framework of the Office of Fair Trading Debt Management (and credit repair service) Guidelines (March 2012, OFT366rev). Student Advice and Support Service members of staff are bound by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) Code of Standards for immigration advice, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) Code of Ethics. Student Advice and Support Service staffs work in compliance with the UKBA Policy Guidance for Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsors. Page 2

4 3. Confidentiality Policy The Student Advice and Support Service is committed to providing a confidential advice service to its users. We believe that principles of confidentiality must be integrated across all aspects of the service and management and that our users deserve the right to confidentiality to protect their interests as well as to safeguard the reputation of the Student Advice and Support Service. The service also adheres to the University s Data Protection Policy, details of which can be found on the University website. In addition to this the Student Advice and Support Service will endeavour to obtain permission to record sensitive and personal information about a client using our on-line or paper client details sheet. If clients request advice by or telephone, this may not always be possible prior to advising students and they may not respond to our requests for data protection consent. We will therefore make clients aware in our responses that by using our service they are giving consent for SASS to process and use their personal information, which will be kept confidential. Should they inform us after that time that they refuse data protection permission, then we will update our electronic records to become anonymous and delete any personal and sensitive data. For telephone enquires we will verbally request permission from the client to record their sensitive and personal information relating. If this is declined we will record the client as anonymous. The following will be displayed in the waiting areas/interview room: The Student Advice and Support Service offer a confidential service All information given to staff within The Student Advice and Support Service will remain confidential and no information will be given to a third party, including other University Departments (subject to some exceptions) without the client s specific consent. Members of the Student Advice and Support Service Team: The team comprises of the Head of Student Support Centre, the team leader, one senior adviser, five advisers, and administrators. These are the only people who will have access to client records. The team will only access client records when it is essential to do so, and will be bound by the Data Protection Act and relevant University policy on this issue. Definition of Confidential: We understand confidentiality to mean that no information regarding a client shall be given directly or indirectly to any third party which is external to the team, without that client s prior expressed consent to disclose such information (subject to specific exceptions; see below). We may, however, use second tier advice agencies consultancy lines to inform the advice we give to clients, e.g. the NHAS, or UKCISA, These agencies are also bound by a confidentiality policy, and clients will not be compromised by the use of these organisations. We recognise that all clients should be able to access our services in confidence and that, as far as possible, no other person should know that they have used our services. We will not confirm the client s presence in, or use of, the Student Advice and Support Service without first obtaining the client s consent. We recognise that clients need to feel secure in using our services in a confidential manner. Advice rooms are provided for confidential advice sessions to be given. We recognise that information may be indirectly given out through staff informally discussing cases. All staff should ensure that no discussions relating to a client of The Student Advice and Support Service take place outside of the service. Page 3

5 Statistical Recording: We are committed to effective statistical recording of clients to enable us to monitor the take-up of services and to identify policy issues arising from our service. It is the team leader s responsibility to ensure all statistical records given to third parties, shall be produced in an anonymous form, so individuals cannot be recognised. Case records and client information: The use of the advice recording sheet is encouraged when making notes during a consultation (see appendices). It is the individual adviser s responsibility to ensure all case records/notes are kept in the designated filing cabinets, and that these cabinets are locked at the end of each working day. Clients can have copies of their case records upon written request, and proof of identity. Copies will not be given to a third party unless the client specifically requests this disclosure, in writing. Case records are also kept in a secure electronic database. Access to this database is only allowed to team members who have signed the confidentiality policy. It is the responsibility of individual team members to ensure that client details are not visible from PCs, except to authorised staff, and that computer passwords are kept confidential. PC screens should not be left unattended without password protected screen-savers and manual records should not be left where they can be accessed by unauthorised personnel/other students/ members of the public. All records, paper or electronic will be destroyed after six years. Expressed Consent to Give Information: It is the responsibility of advisers to ensure that where any action is agreed to be taken by them, on behalf of a client, that client must either agree verbally, if they are present when the adviser contacts the third party/ies, or sign an Authorisation to Act form (see appendix) if they are not going to be present when the adviser contacts the third party/ies. This form must be stored with the client s case sheet, or if the consent is verbal, the adviser must note it on the case record and/ or a secure electronic data base. If a client sets up a consent to share (e.g. with SFE) or gives permission to another member of university staff to discuss their case with our service, this will be taken as consent and we can give information to the other party. Advisers are responsible for checking with clients if it is acceptable to call them at home, on their mobile, or at work in relation to their case. Staff should take care not to inadvertently breach the client s confidentiality when leaving messages on answer phones/voic . Advisers are responsible for checking with clients if it is acceptable to write to them at home or work in relation to their case. A copy of the form clients are required to sign can be found at the end of this document. Breaches of Confidentiality: We recognise that occasions may arise where individual advisers feel they need to breach confidentiality. We also recognise that any breach of confidentiality may damage the reputation of our services and therefore has to be treated with the most serious of approaches. Page 4

6 The procedure for breaching confidentiality may be applied in the following circumstances: Where disclosure of information is required by law and/or institutional sponsorship responsibilities under Tier 4 of the Points Based Immigration System. Where there are good grounds for believing that the client will cause serious harm to others, including children, or themselves or have harm caused to them. Where legal obligation, such as responding to a subpoena or under statutory acts of law, require disclosure of confidential information for example in circumstances covered by the Prevention of Terrorism Acts. N.B. It is an offence for us to aid, abet, counsel of procure the commission of a criminal offence. Therefore, we are obliged by law to tell clients if a member of the team believes they are committing, or are about to commit fraud or other criminal offence. Fraud may include giving inaccurate information, e.g. to the Benefits Agency, Student Finance England, UKBA or similar. We will not give any confidential information about clients to other parties but neither will we do anything to support or encourage illegal actions. Should the client continue with the illegal action we reserve the right to withdraw our services. On occasions where an adviser feels confidentiality should be breached the following steps must be taken: 1. The adviser should raise the matter immediately with the team leader. 2. The adviser must discuss with the team leader the issues involved in the case and explain why they feel confidentiality should be breached and what would be achieved by breaching confidentiality. The team leader should take a written note of this discussion. 3. The team leader is responsible for discussing with the adviser what options are available in each set of circumstances. 4. The team leader is responsible for making a decision on whether confidentiality should be breached. If the team leader decides that confidentiality is to be breached then they should take the following steps: 5. The team leader should contact the Head of the Student Support Centre in the first instance 1. The team leader should brief the Head of the Student Support Centre on the full facts of the case, ensuring they do not breach confidentiality in doing so. The team leader should seek authorisation to breach confidentiality from the Head of the Student Support Centre 6. If the Head of the Student Support Centre agrees to breaching confidentiality, a full written report on the case should be made and any action agreed undertaken. The team leader is responsible for ensuring all activities are actioned. 7. If the Head of the Student Support Centre does not agree to breach confidentiality then this is the final decision of the organisation. 8. In no circumstances should any breach of confidentiality be discussed at this stage with The Head of Student Services, as they are the person responsible for resolving complaints for the service. This is to ensure that any future complaints or investigations arising from breach in confidentiality can be carried out in an independent manner. Legislative Framework We will monitor this policy to ensure it meets statutory and legal requirements including the Data Protection Act, Children s Act, Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Immigration and Asylum Act Training on the policy will be given to all new team members. Ensuring the Effectiveness of the Policy All team members will receive a copy of the confidentiality policy, and be expected to sign their agreement to abide by the contents. Page 5

7 Existing and new staff will be introduced to the confidentiality policy via induction and training. The policy will be reviewed annually and amendments should be proposed by the SASS Team Leader and agreed by the Director of Student Services. Date procedure was agreed: January 2014 Date of review: January 2015 Person responsible for review: Team Leader, Student Advice and Support Service 4. Equal Opportunities Policy Loughborough University is committed to achieving equality for all those who learn and work here and wishes to develop a demonstrably fair and supportive environment, which provides equality of opportunity and freedom from unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, gender identity (trans sexuality), marital or civil partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, age, social class or offending background. The full Equal Opportunities Statement can be found on the Loughborough University website. The Student Advice and Support Service is bound by the University policy and also have the following additions: Discriminatory behaviour within the Student Support Centre will be challenged, and if the behaviour persists the person responsible will be asked to leave the centre. We reserve the right to withdraw services to clients who breach the Equal Opportunities Policy. See our Restriction to Services policy. 5. Lone Working Policy- when with clients. Loughborough University acknowledges that there may be an increased risk to the health and safety of its employees and students when working alone. Full details of this policy can be found on the University s website. In the Student Advice and Support Service the policy is that advisers will not be able to see clients unless there is a minimum of two people in the building. If this cannot be met, arrangements should be made to see clients in another office, where there will be more people available, or the appointment should be rearranged. 6. Conflict of Interest Policy The Student Advice and Support Service occasionally may not be able to provide advice or advocacy in situations in which there is perceived to be a conflict of interest. Where a client seeks advice regarding a problem or dispute with another student (e.g. regarding an unpaid debt, or personal harassment, etc.) we will offer impartial advice or will signpost to another organisation that can help the client, but will not undertake casework or offer representation on behalf of the client. Where a client seeks advice regarding a matter that has direct implications on the rights, entitlements or obligations of another student of Loughborough University (e.g. an enquiry from a student seeking advice about bringing to an end a joint tenancy agreement shared with other students) advisers will offer impartial advice but will not undertake casework, or offer representation on behalf of the client, unless it is has been established that all potential affected clients consent to the action being taken. Advisers should explain to their client the potential for a conflict of interest and to ensure that they get the best possible help and advice to their problem they might wish to be signposted to another advice organisation. Where the student needs advice about a university department or member of staff, we can advise them on their legal rights, and help to resolve the matter, but can also refer them to Student Voice in the Students Union who can advise them further about their right to make a complaint about the university. We are not able to offer advice on any academic matter. Page 6

8 If an Adviser is in any doubt about whether an enquiry has the potential to cause a conflict of interest, he or she should discuss it with the team leader. The team leader reserves the right to withdraw the service if they feel that the Student Support and Advice Service will be compromised in anyway. If at any time a client displays unhappiness with the way they have been handled in relation to a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest, they must be directed to the Complaints Policy 7. Restrictions to Service Policy The amount of time available to Student Advice and Support Service staff may affect their ability to assist clients. In exceptional circumstances, the team leader will restrict a client's use of our services. This could be for a variety of reasons: The client requires more time than advisers are able to give to their case The client has posed a real or perceived threat to the safety of staff or other clients The client persists in using discriminatory language or behaviour contrary to our Equal Opportunities Policy. The client is not a student of Loughborough University The client is aggressive or abusive to staff and/or other students The client is not using the service appropriately. This last point relates to a situation where agreed action is to be taken by the adviser and this action is undermined by other action taken independently by the client. In this situation the adviser s role will be restricted to one of giving information and pastoral support only (this may particularly apply to debt clients). 8. Student Complaints This complaints procedure sets out how you can raise any concerns about the service you have received. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Our primary concern is to respond promptly and effectively to any client dissatisfaction as it arises. If you are not satisfied with the service, please talk to us straight away. We will try to solve the problem quickly and informally. If informal discussion fails to resolve an issue, you may wish to register a formal complaint. Full details of the complaints procedure can be found in the appendices. Areas covered by this policy: Aspects of service policy, procedures or activities. Discourtesy or unhelpfulness on the part of staff. Dissatisfaction with our service e.g. inaccurate advice, unreasonable delays in carrying out agreed work. Discrimination (See our Equal Opportunities Policy). Areas NOT covered by this policy: Restrictions on what an adviser can or cannot do for you, including time restrictions (see exceptions to confidentiality; conflict of interest policy). A situation where the adviser cannot deliver the outcome the client wants despite the best efforts of the adviser(s) concerned. Client's failure to follow advice. Outcomes of choices made by the client(s). Complainants should note: Whilst information pertaining to a complaint will be dealt with on a strictly need-to-know basis, the level of confidentiality which Student Advice and Support Service clients usually enjoy may need to be suspended during the investigation of a complaint. Clients will be informed if this is the case. Page 7

9 Recording and Monitoring Complaints: The team leader is responsible for ensuring that all complaints are recorded and kept on file, including those which were resolved without being put in writing. The Complaints Monitoring Form (see appendix) shall be used to do this. All complaints shall be treated with regard to the Confidentiality Policy. Publicising the Procedure: The team leader is responsible for ensuring that posters are displayed in the waiting area and website, and that the posters clearly explain the procedure for making the complaint. 9. Social Policy issues Social Policy issues are issues relating to the student experience, which advisers identify as issues, which affect, or could affect a number of students. These issues may be from within the university or related to outside organisations, for example the local council, or Student Loan Company. Social Policy issues will be those which are recurring on a regular basis and which affect all of the student body or a particular group of students. When an adviser believes they have identified a social policy issue they will bring the matter to the attention of the team leader. The matter will then be discussed and a decision made as to whether it needs to be taken any further with the relevant organisation, and if so how this will be carried out. 10. Staff Professional Development Policy The team leader, together with the advisers, will undertake to identify training needs. In particular, the advisers are expected to attend regular training for their continuing professional development. This will form part of the university PDR process and is necessary in order to comply with AdviceUK membership, OISC Code of Standards, NASMA accreditation program, as well as meeting the Aims and Principles of the Service. Relevant training will be identified during the PDR process and at one to one meetings. A written record of training identified and undertaken will be kept by the team leader. 11. Quality of Advice Advisers are responsible for checking the accuracy of the advice they give and referencing sources of information on the client s case records, even if this is a conversation with another colleague. Resources are available to all advisers to help them find the relevant information. The team leader is responsible for supervising the advice given by all advisers and ensuring accuracy and consistency throughout the service. Supervision may take place in one to one sessions, group/peer sessions, case work checking, sitting in with individual advisers or any other format that the team leader deems necessary. 12. Service Development In order to make sure we are meeting the needs of our clients we have established a steering committee made up of clients, the Students Union officers, advice service staff, staff from other university services and departments, as well as people from the local community/local council. The group will aim to meet twice a year and discuss any issues arising, as well as proposals for developing the service. Agreed by: Director of Student Services. Signed: Dated: Page 8

10 Appendices Complaints procedure for Student Advice and Support Service: Stage One If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the service, you may make a complaint to the Team Leader of the Student Advice and Support Centre. This can be done in writing by or letter: Wendy Dant Team Leader- Student Advice and Support Service Bridgeman Building Loughborough University Leicestershire LE11 3TU Telephone: The team leader will endeavour to resolve your complaint informally in the first instance. You will receive a response in person, in writing or by telephone within 15 working days (please state your preference when you first contact us). Stage Two (You should start at this stage if your complaint is about the team leader) If you are not satisfied with the initial response to your complaint and wish to take the complaint further, you should put the complaint in writing to the Head of the Student Support Centre: Elizabeth Chahal Head of Student Support Centre Bridgeman Building Loughborough University Leicestershire LE11 3TU Phone: The letter should be marked private and confidential and provide as much detail as possible. You should also state why you are not satisfied with the initial response for the team leader. Stage Three If your complaint remains unsatisfied you can write to the Director of Student Services, or you can request that the complaint be reviewed outside the department of Student Services. You should write stating your complaint and why you are not satisfied with the responses so far. Mark your letter as private and confidential, to: Manuel Alonso Director of Student Services, Bridgeman Building Loughborough University Leicestershire LE11 3TU Or if you want your complaint to be reviewed outside the department please follow the formal procedure laid down in Ordnance XXXVIII. Full details can be found on the website: Page 9

11 Complaints about immigration advice The immigration advice given by the Student Advice and Support Service is also subject to the National Complaints Scheme operated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). You can make a complaint to the Commissioner whether or not you have made a complaint to the University. Further details can be found on their website or ask your adviser for a more details. Page 10

12 Complaint monitoring form Student Advice and Support Service Complaint number: (e.g. 01/2012) Date of complaint: Name of complainant: How complaint was received e.g. in person/ /phone/writing: Brief nature of the complaint: Date of response: Outcome: Details of person who dealt with complaint: Gone to next stage? Yes/No Signed:

13 Loughborough University Student Advice and Support Service Authorisation to Act form I authorise Loughborough University Student Advice and Support Service to act on my behalf in relation to: My financial situation My housing situation My immigration situation Other (please give details) The Student Advice and Support Service may/may not discuss my case with other university staff. The Student Advice and Support Service may/may not discuss my case with outside agencies. (Please delete as appropriate- do not leave blank) Name: Student Number: Signature: Date:

14 Advice recording sheet.

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