By Sophie Gregory
As part of the Durham Students’ Union’s new five year strategy, the SU’s Help and Advice Service is to be increased and housing contract checking is to become a separate service.
Currently, the Help and Advice Service has 1.6 full-time employees. These employees are spread across casework, advocacy and preventative work tackling systemic welfare and academic fairness issues.
Of their 1.6 employees, the 0.6 focuses on one-to-one advocacy, concentrating on complex cases that require the expertise of the DSU. In 2016/2017, Durham SU supported 126 students with academic casework, 126 with housing contract casework, 83 with other housing casework, 39 with finance casework, and 13 ‘other’ cases.
The SU predicts that demand will remain at the same level in the coming year. The changes will see the addition of a full-time equivalent; the time is comparable to that which a full time employee would commit to the Help and Advice Service.
This will not affect the one-on-one advocacy, which will continue to act in the same capacity as at present; however, there will be increased capacity for challenging greater, systemic issues. Such issues include sexual violence and tenants’ rights.
The contract checking service, popular among students, will become a separate service.
The strategy will also be investing in more digital support for students.
Rosa Tallock, the SU Welfare and Liberation Officer, told Palatinate: “I believe in the power of systemic, mass, collective change. The SU is shifting focus to be proactive rather than just reactive – I have a commitment to making sure we are tackling the big issues.
“Of course, we will still maintain our one on one advocacy as students require it.
“Redirecting resources to make sure we are looking at things like tenants’ rights and sexual violence, is our priority. I’m excited about the changes we’ve made.”
Photograph: Sophie Gregory