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Fitness to Attend protocol

The University seeks to maintain a safe, positive and productive learning and living environment and to support the wellbeing of all members of the University community. The University expects all students to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions and to live in a way that respects the rights and dignity of others as set out in the University’s Dignity at Warwick Policy. It is recognised that in some situations the existence of medical or other physical or health-related conditions may require reasonable adjustment and support from Wellbeing and Student Support to achieve this. However, it should also be recognised that such conditions do not remove the responsibility of the student for their education or their responsibility towards other members of the academic or broader community at Warwick. It is not reasonable for inappropriate behaviour by those with such conditions to persistently and negatively impact on the wellbeing of other students and staff. The fact that a student has physical, mental health, personality and/or other conditions in no way lessens the responsibilities the University owes to other students and hence responsibility to an individual needs to be balanced against responsibility to other students and staff. The University is committed, however, to supporting student wellbeing and recognises that a positive approach to the management of physical and mental health, personality and/or other conditions contributes to a positive student experience, learning and academic achievement.

This Protocol describes how the University supports students whose health or medical conditions are raising concerns within the institution regarding actual or potential risks to either themselves or other students. The student Fitness to Attend Protocol should be applied when there are concerns for example around student behaviour; disruption by a student or where the risk(s) presented by a student to themselves or others is perceived to be of a serious, or potentially serious nature and impacts, or potentially impacts adversely the health, safety, wellbeing or academic progress of themselves or others.

This Protocol will, where appropriate, be applied typically as an alternative to disciplinary procedures, however, the University reserves the right to use disciplinary procedures in addition to this Protocol to respond to student behaviour having an adverse effect or impact or real risk of impact on themselves or others.

(1) Purpose and Scope

This Protocol describes the University’s staged programme of support for students, starting with an initial informal procedure for an individual student through enhanced formalised support and the development of personal care programmes to the final stage which may involve full re-engagement with studies or temporary withdrawal of a student from study at Warwick. It is designed to provide a suitable and coordinated response by all appropriate support staff. Our aim is to encourage early intervention and active collaboration between staff and students in managing situations where there are concerns regarding fitness to attend and live and/or study within the University community. The University takes a non-judgemental, consistent and sensitive approach to the management of these situations and recognises that different levels of response may be required according to the perceived level of concern and associated risks.

(2) When is this Protocol Applied?

2.1 The University has a responsibility to respond appropriately to situations where there are concerns relating to visible signs of illness, mental health, psychological, personality or emotional conditions which may have, or are having a detrimental impact on the functioning of the individual student and/or other members of the University community. It should be noted that the University takes a holistic approach to membership of the University and looks more widely than solely successfully undertaking academic studies.

2.2 A student’s fitness to attend may be a cause for concern as a result of a wide range of circumstances. Example situations, include:

Concerns about the student’s fitness to study and/or live independently raised from a third party e.g. a friend, housemate, colleague, academic staff or medical professional either whilst the student is at university or whilst engaged in university-led outside activities such as placements or field trips or otherwise. The student has told a member of staff that they have concerns about their fitness to attend. The student’s disposition indicates that there may be need to address an underlying health issue. Behaviour which would usually be dealt with as a disciplinary matter, which may be known to be or suspected to be the result of an underlying physical or mental health condition. A student’s health difficulties are adversely affecting the health, safety or wellbeing of others. The student’s academic performance or personal conduct is deemed to be unacceptable by relevant staff and is thought to be the result of an underlying physical or mental health condition.

2.3 This protocol can be applied on its own or concurrently with a disciplinary procedure. It should be noted that where a student who is being supported through this protocol breaks disciplinary regulations they may not necessarily be exempt from the disciplinary process or from any disciplinary action being taken.

(3) General Principles

3.1 Where a student does not engage with the initial stages described in this protocol the member of staff responsible for Wellbeing and Student Support (or their nominee) will inform the Registrar and as a consequence the Registrar may refer the case under Regulation 36 governing student registration, attendance and progress to a Continuation of Registration Committee that may determine temporary or permanent withdrawal and any conditions that may need to be fulfilled if temporary.

3.2 In sufficiently serious cases exclusion or expulsion may be considered.

Students required to withdraw will be given the opportunity to talk to named staff within Wellbeing and Student Support to discuss financial issues; support and study implications and other issues which may arise (including UKBA considerations as appropriate).

Agreement about how the University will keep in touch with the student during their absence will be made for periods of temporary withdrawal.

A student returning from a period of temporary withdrawal or exclusion may be subject to a fitness to return assessment. This should be outlined in the decision letter sent to the student. Support from Wellbeing and Student Support will be available following successful completion of a fitness to return assessment and immediately prior to a planned return to the University.

3.3 At all stages of the process due consideration will be given to issues of confidentiality and data protection and the University will take into account relevant legislation (e.g. GDPR and data protection, Mental Health Act, Human Rights Act, Equality Act). (It should be noted therefore that others potentially impacted by the behaviour of an individual being taken through the protocol, will not normally be updated on the progress of it).

(4) Stages of Action

The stages of this protocol can be entered at any point depending on the level of concern and urgency although it is hoped that most situations can be remedied by early intervention at stages 1 or 2.

4.1 Stage 1: Informal Procedure

4.1.1 Once concerns have been raised about a student, the student will be invited to a meeting with either a member of staff in Wellbeing and Student Support, the University Senior Warden or a member of staff from the student’s academic department and made aware of the precise nature of the behaviour that has caused the concern. The aim is to resolve the matter through informal discussions encouraging the student to access the appropriate support services offered by the University and externally.

4.1.2 Where the student is willing and able to engage with the process, a written Personal Care Plan typically will be developed with the student, fully documenting agreed expectations and commitments with timescales for the student to achieve. The plan will include details and timings for progress reviews to be held.

It may be appropriate at this stage, to discuss with the student, the potential of involving parents/guardians should the situation deteriorate further, and if agreed, to gain clear and written consent from the student under which circumstances this may be actioned.

4.1.3 Following review, where concerns have been addressed and where adequate progress has been made, the student will be encouraged to continue with relevant support as appropriate and will be discharged from the informal procedure.

4.1.3 Following review, where concerns have not been addressed and/or support not sought and where the required progress has not been made, the student will progress to Stage 2.

4.2 Stage 2: Student Care Planning Meeting

4.2.1 If action taken under Stage 1 has not been successful or if the concerns raised are too serious to be dealt with informally (e.g. where there is clear evidence of risk of harm to self, or significant harm or disruption to others), the case shall be progressed to Stage 2.

4.2.2 A Student Care Planning meeting shall be convened and chaired by the Director of Wellbeing and Safeguarding (or their nominee) or Director of Undergraduate or Postgraduate Studies (or equivalent) from the student’s department in order to discuss (i) the previously identified concerns and any new areas of concern and (ii) to assess the student’s fitness to attend.

4.2.3 The Support Review Panel typically will comprise:

the student (accompanied by a friend / colleague if they so wish)a representative(s) from the student’s academic department (normally Personal or Senior Department Tutor or Supervisor), a representative(s) from Wellbeing and Student Support, where appropriate, a relevant member of the Residential Life Team, typically a Warden or Senior Warden

4.2.4 The date, time and place of the meeting shall be notified to the student in writing typically at least five University working days beforehand. This notification shall make clear the cause of concern and who will attend the meeting.

4.2.5 Where the concern covers health matters, the University may seek an appropriate professionally qualified opinion which addresses specific issues (nature of condition, its current status, its severity, details of the way the condition adversely affects the student or others, and how it might be exacerbated). Other professional opinions may also be requested/provided.

4.2.6 The student may also provide professional medical evidence. The student will be able to submit this and other documents for consideration at the meeting.

4.2.7 The student will be given a copy of any documents provided to the meeting typically at least three University working days before the meeting. This will include a Provisional Order of Proceedings for the meeting.

4.2.8 The Chair of the Meeting may vary the order of proceedings as appropriate and may ask other relevant parties to attend.

4.2.9 The Chair will make a reasoned decision, taking into account the specific case, as to whether the student should attend all, part or none of this meeting, and this rationale should be noted. If the student does attend, they will have the right to bring a friend or supporter to the meeting and should notify the convenor in advance of the meeting who they would like to bring. It should be noted that this friend/ supporter’s role is to support the student only and they cannot typically represent the student in their absence and would not be able typically to answer questions on behalf of the student. If, having been properly notified, the student fails to attend, the meeting will proceed in the student’s absence. Only in exceptional circumstances will rescheduling of the meeting be considered.

4.2.10 The Support Review Panel is empowered to determine one of three outcomes, potentially following further advice being sought as deemed necessary at the meeting:

(1) No further action required.

(2) Confirm full engagement and agreement by the student to a formal Support Action Plan to remedy the situation. The Support Action Plan shall be drawn up by the Chair of the Support Review Panel detailing clear objectives, behavioural expectations, milestones, timescales and review points and should be signed by the student as a clear agreed commitment and undertaking.

(3) A recommendation for a period of temporary withdrawal by the student. A clear indication of expectations for return to study shall be provided to the student by the Chair of the Support Review Panel.

4.2.11 A written record of the meeting shall be made by the Chair, including all decisions made and action points agreed, and will be sent to the student within 5 University working days of the meeting. Parties involved in supporting the student carry out the actions agreed will also receive a copy of the letter.

4.2.12 In all cases the student should be made aware that if the agreed outcome actions are breached their case will progress to Stage 3.

4.2.13 If the student does not accept the decision of the panel the case will automatically be escalated to Stage 3.

4.2.14 If the student agrees that a period of temporary withdrawal is the best course of action this will be requested on their behalf supported by the Support Review Panel.

4.2.15 Temporary withdrawal is normally allowed for up to a total of two years over the duration of a course.

4.2.16 Students are not permitted to attend classes either formally or informally during a period of temporary withdrawal. However, to help students prepare for their return to the University IT facilities and access to the Library will normally continue during the period of temporary withdrawal.

4.2.17 Return to the University following the period of temporary withdrawal will be subject to any conditions determined when the request to withdraw temporarily is approved.

4.3 Stage 3: Referral to Registrar

4.3.1 Stage 3 can be entered when significant or persistent concerns are raised about an individual student’s actions or behaviour that put the health, safety, wellbeing or academic progress of themselves or other members of the University community at significant risk.

4.3.2 Following a referral from a Student Care Planning meeting or if in the opinion of the Director of Wellbeing and Safeguarding (or their nominee) a case is sufficiently serious and urgent to warrant an immediate referral without consideration of Stage 1 and 2, a case can be progressed under Stage 3.

4.3.3 Stage 3 will be in line with Regulation 36: Regulations Governing Student Registration, Attendance and Progress, section 36.4(c) and (d): Grounds and procedure for requiring a student to withdraw temporarily or permanently: Concern over behaviour.