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How can we reduce harm from student risk-taking behaviours?

23 November 2022

An expert panel explores what the sector needs to know about student risk-taking behaviours, and how they can support students and reduce harm.

Content note: This episode contains discussion of sensitive topics including drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex work. If you or someone you know needs support with the topics discussed in this episode, there are specialist organisations that can help you in complete confidence – please refer to the ‘Support’ section of the show notes for signposting.

This month, Accommodation Matters is looking at high-risk student behaviours that take place behind closed doors, such as drug-taking, drinking, gambling and sex work. Our expert Higher Education panel, hosted by Jenny Shaw, explores why students might engage in these behaviours, what the risks are, and what university and student accommodation practitioners can do to support students and reduce harms.

This month’s panel includes:

  • Mandi Barron, Director of Student Services at Bournemouth University
  • Sunday Blake, Associate Editor at Wonkhe and former President of the University of Exeter Students’ Guild
  • Kev Clelland, Director of Insight and Engagement at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM)

The panel is also joined by guest contributor Tracy Lumb, Senior Project Manager – Wellbeing at SOS UK, who shares her insights on student drug and alcohol misuse. Tracy and Jenny will be speaking further on the topic at ‘Tackling drug use in student accommodation’, a Westminster Forum event, on Tuesday 10th January 2023. More details are available at the Westminster Forum site.

Unite Students is sponsoring the Universities UK taskforce on student drug use. The Student Drug Use Taskforce was launched by Universities UK (UUK), in partnership with Unite Students, GuildHE and Independent HE, and in order to better understand demand for and use of drugs within the UK student population, and produce evidence-led sector guidance with a view to reducing harms from drug use and better tackle supply.

You can find the resources mentioned in the episode, and support organisations for any of the topics discussed, in the episode show notes.


Episode transcript: ‘Hidden risks: Reducing harms from student risk-taking behaviours’

Jenny Shaw: Hello and welcome to Accommodation Matters, your monthly look into the big issues in student accommodation. I’m Jenny Shaw, and today I’m asking: how should we respond to resident students who engage in risk taking behaviours?

And before we start, I do want to let you know that we will be talking about some sensitive subjects that might affect you or those you support, so we do have signposting to information and resources in the show notes.

Now there’s nothing new about young people taking risks, and it can be tempting to think about this as either high jinks or poor choices. But taking risks can also be rooted in vulnerability or linked to disadvantage. Over recent years we’ve seen an ever-growing emphasis on student wellbeing and the role that universities and their accommodation partners should play within that.  So in today’s episode we will be talking about some difficult topics, but with the emphasis very much on the welfare of students and what we can all do to reduce harm.

I have with me today four guests, three of whom are experts in a specific area of student behaviour, and one who has a broad expertise in the student experience. I’m going to come first to Tracy Lumb who is senior project manager at SOS UK and an expert in student drug and alcohol use. Tracy, student drug use isn’t new but there have been changes over the last few years in the pattern of use. Can you paint me a picture of what’s going on for students at the moment?

Tracy: Historically, there’s been very little research into student drug use. Most information is actually gained anecdotally from things like security reports, welfare support, or ad hoc conversations with students. This means really, we have an incomplete picture of drug use on UK campuses. Of the few surveys that have been done, the results are quite varied. Probably the most well-known is the Taking the Hit survey; that found that 56% of students reported using drugs at some point in their life, and 39% currently use drugs.

What this shows is that students’ drug use isn’t an easy issue. It does happen, and we need to start having the conversations about it, and supporting students to make informed choices. We can’t bury our head in the sand and hope it will go away by not talking about it. As well as the number of students using drugs, surveys have looked at the reasons behind drug use.

I think from the media, the perception is that students only take drugs to have fun and party with friends but in reality, while ‘recreational purposes’ is the most reported motivation for student drug use, there are also many other motivations like dealing with stress, escaping reality, or self-medicating in existing mental health problem.

One of my roles at SOS UK is to encourage universities to take their own surveys, or focus groups and find out what is happening on their campus.

Jenny: What are some of the risks and the impacts for students of taking drugs?

Tracy: Any drugs that students take will ultimately come with a risk. Of course, the safest option is not to take the drug at all. However, we have established that students do use drugs for many reasons. It’s important that we not only talk about the risks but also ways to reduce any potential harm that might occur. We have risks around physical and mental health. For example, the mixing of certain drugs or taking drugs whilst drinking alcohol can be extremely dangerous. We also know that taking certain drugs too often can have a negative effect on our mental health.

As well as the obvious effects on health, students have also reported that they’ve missed lectures or social arrangements, they might have got into an argument, they might have taken risks for personal safety, come into contact with the police, or had unprotected sex. This means that we need to be thinking of impacts in a wider context outside of simply physical and mental health issues.

Another risk for me is the assumption that we can’t access medical help if things go wrong. Unfortunately, there has been cases where students have delayed medical treatment as a result of fear or police involvement, or losing their place at university or in their accommodation. This can be fatal.

Jenny: I’d like to touch on the supply side a little as well if that’s okay. There has been a recent report about the involvement of students in county lines supply, which is still very small numbers but is that something we might see evolving, perhaps as the cost of living continues to rise?

Tracy: County lines is used to describe networks involved in exporting drugs between areas in the UK, so they can involve the befriending of young people either online or offline and then exploiting them into moving, storing, or dealing drugs. Students can be a target for this because they often have a legitimate reason to move around the country and we know there’s also a market for drugs in the student population.

However, as you said, with this report, it is small numbers. As you say, I think there is a risk with the increase of cost of living, paying off debt or having some extra money could act as an enticing offer for students but it is really difficult to say for certain. I think what this demonstrates, though, is that drug use must be seen in the context of overall student well-being. We’re working with universities and student unions to increase the support and education to students using drugs without that fear of punishment so that they feel empowered to seek support without a fear of being pulled to the police or losing their place at university.

Jenny: Thank you very much Tracy, there’s some very interesting insight there and I look forward to discussing that shortly. We’re now going to move on to the second of our three areas of focus today, and I’d like to introduce now Kev Clelland, who’s Director of Insight and Engagement at YGAM, the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust. Kev, how prevalent is student gambling, and who is more likely to be involved?

Kevin Cleland: Thanks, Jenny. Now gambling is a contemporary risk that can impact any young person no matter where they come from, and it’s a safeguarding issue that can often be missed but at YGAM we believe it’s an issue that we need to face up to if we’re to ensure our students remain healthy and safe. Now, our social purpose is to inform, educate and safeguard young people against gaming and gambling harms. We believe that our education should be targeted at not just young people, but at teachers, youth workers, parents, health professionals, and of course, staff at universities.

The students are a key group in our work. There’s a number of factors which could increase their risk of experiencing gambling harms. They’re able to legally gamble for the first time, they have access to funds through student loans, they’ve moved away from home for the first time, many of them, they’ve got new friends in new surroundings, and they have new experiences as well.

We commissioned a survey of 2,000 UK students 12 months ago, and in that survey, we found that 80% of them had gambled. 41% of those who had gambled, admitted that this had had a negative impact on the university experience, including missing lectures, assignment deadlines, and social activities.

More than a 1/3 were using money either from their student loan, their overdraft, or they borrowed from friends or were taking out payday loans to fund their gambling. Finally, almost one in five of them admitted to spending more than £50 per week. As I mentioned, right at the start, we believe this is a real contemporary risk for students.

Jenny: Those were some very big numbers there, Kev. I’m quite surprised by those. What is it that makes it go from just a bit of fun to becoming more problematic because it sounds like there’s quite a lot of students there who are finding it problematic or potentially getting into trouble with it?

Kevin: I think it’s, again, a really good question. Harms related to gambling are complex. The Illinois Institute for Addiction talk about the four stages of gambling harm. It starts with that winning stage, which is usually a big win, it often comes early as well, with people believing that they can win big again. Then we also move on to the losing stage, where the gambler is often gambling alone. They’re taking out loans, they’re skipping university commitments or work commitments and they’re being secretive about that activity and they often find themselves, maybe lying to others or also chasing losses.

Then gamblers have their desperation stage, which is that total loss of control, that feeling of guilt, but they still can’t escape that habit, they still can’t quit their habits. Then finally, there’s a hopeless stage where they believe that nobody cares, and nobody can help. There’s research to suggest that people experiencing gambling harm are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, and more likely to attempt suicide compared to the general population.

Jenny: That’s really helpful because this is quite an eye-opener to me. I’m sure it will be for this as well, just how prevalent it is and how that plays out. Are students tending to or willing to come forward for help and is that help available?

Kevin: Again, going back to our survey that– Where we commissioned census-wide last year, this survey told us that a minority of student gamblers are aware of organisations that are out there to help such as GambleAware, Gamblers Anonymous, and GAMSTOP, who offer support to control gambling but whilst 56% of those who are aware, as well of the types of support that the university can offer on campus in relation to gambling harm, less than a quarter felt confident accessing this support.

Jenny: Thank you very much, Kevin. There’s plenty for us to chat about later in the episode but before we do that, I’d like to come now to Sunday Blake, associate editor at Wonkhe and the co-author of a recent book chapter on student sex work, the subject of your research for quite a number of years. I should say also that you’re an authority on the student experience and wellbeing widely. We’ve talked about a couple of topics which are really around an addiction. This is something quite different, isn’t it Sunday? It’s a topic that many find uncomfortable but is surprisingly prevalent. Is that right?

Sunday Blake: It’s very difficult when we’re talking about percentages and stuff, mainly because the surveys and data sets are run in quite a difficult way that sometimes is based on preconceptions of the researchers. A lot of provider-level surveys will come to us and they will be run by for example LGBT societies where there might be a disproportionate number of students in sex work. That can cause some quite difficult issues with dating sites because half of the students who do that won’t consider themselves as sex workers. It’s a really difficult way of defining what is and isn’t sex work.

The other issue is around the idea of sugar babying which obviously is a transactional sexual relationship, but because it’s more relationship-based rather than one transaction, some students will see themselves as sex workers, others won’t. There’s a lot of issues around self-identity when it comes to really understanding the number of sex workers. There’s all issues that make it really difficult for us to understand the real breadth and depth of this behaviour in the student body.

Jenny: I’m getting from this it is a very complex world and quite a hidden world. I think that’s what unites all these three topics that we are looking at today. Is that hidden nature of it. I’m just wondering from a student support point of view, what do we need to know about student sex work?

Sunday: Sure. I think the thing with student sex work, the most important thing around it is around autonomy. A lot of student sex workers that I’ve spoken to won’t really want to engage with outreach because the reason that they’ve turned to sex work in the first place is because they’re desperately trying to preserve some independence. They need that self-sustaining ability. They’re engaging in certain types of behaviour. They’re engaging in certain types of work because they feel that they need to earn a large amount of money in a short amount of time.

When we are approaching these students from an outreach perspective, it’s really, really important that we don’t portray them as victims because a lot of the students, they’ve actually had to think quite deeply about the decisions that they’re making. Obviously, you do have the students who engage in incidental sex work and there’s a lot of students who engage in incidental sex work who might not have thought about it as deeply but it’s still an autonomous decision that they’ve made.

One of the things I think students are quite frightened of or sometimes well-being services have put a pre-requisite on the student for receiving support is that they disengage from the sex work. That’s a massive no because if a student feels that we are saying to them, “You need to stop this right now,” and they’re thinking, I need to pay my rent, they’re just going to immediately stop talking to the service.

There’s been a lot of criticism in the press recently around how we give advice to student sex workers on how to stay safe. There are some criticisms that as much as I’m against, don’t talk about it. This is encouraging people. Part of me does think sometimes, well actually if a student has never thought about doing this and they’re suddenly seeing it as an option, it doesn’t put the idea into their head.

When we’ve looked at this and we’ve done focus groups and interviews, the reality is that even when sex work is easily accessible, so for example, there are active agencies in the area, say London for example, has lots and lots of agencies that will recruit young students into what they call companionship but we know is sex work. Even when sex work is accessible, students won’t do it if they don’t have to necessarily.

I do think that ultimately having really pragmatic destigmatised support services where we are not judging anyone, we’re not pre-guessing why they need to do it because the reasons are so varied and we are just saying as an institution or as an organisation or as a support network, as a charity, whoever it is that’s giving these students support, the focus is on keeping them as safe as possible and leaving it there really.

Jenny: Yes. No thank you. I’m going to open up the discussion now and I’m going to bring in Mandi Barron who’s director of student services at Bournemouth University. I should point out that she is speaking based on her very wide knowledge across the sector because of course today we are talking about issues that affect all universities and accommodation providers. They’re sector-wide issues.

Mandi, we’ve been discussing student behaviours that have the potential to cause harm. What does this look like on the ground, do students approach accommodation staff for help with some of these things, or is it more of a question of being able to spot the signs and understand when students may be needing support or perhaps over their head in certain things?

Mandi: I suppose it’s like anything wellbeing. Some will come forward for help, and some won’t. It just depends very much on the individual, their own personal circumstances. I think with the three topics that we’ve been talking about today, students are worried about the repercussions if they bring forward, whether on a residence visas, whether it’s being chopped off a program. Drugs is another one. If I get found with drugs, I’m I going to be disciplined or withdrawn? What most people in the sector will do, most welfare staff is they’ll try and look out for some signs, maybe rely on a third party.

Students quite often come and say that they’re concerned about their flatmates perhaps or look for signs through the academic profile where a student may be not engaging but used to be before, but again, it’s really complicated because our students are adults, they’re entitled to private lives. Gambling’s not illegal. If it’s done, if these things are done within the context of the law and it’s not harming anybody, including the student, it’s very difficult sometimes to find the boundary of at what point you actually intervene. I’m not sure I’m really answering your question about, do we know or do not know.

I think it will depend on the individual. Certainly, some of the most severe cases tend to be interrelated as well. Why do people gamble or take up sex work? It could be because they’ve blown all the money in drugs for example. It’s an unusual situation where it’s just one thing that’s causing welfare issues for a student, I think it’s normally quite a complicated picture.

I would say from the students that we know that we’ve picked up on something like gambling, we tend to find out not because they’ve come to us and said I’ve got a problem with gambling, it’s more a case if they come to us and said, “I’ve run out money,” and we say, “What’s happened?” I’ve blown it all– I don’t know food or something. Then when you ask for their bank statements to see it, you’re going, “What’s going on here?” You start to unpick it and then it comes out a bit further down the line.

Sunday: I was going to say, it’s really interesting about the gambling and saying “I’ve spent it on food” because we do see something quite similar with student sex workers where they’ll say “I’m doing sex work” and they’re like, “Oh I don’t really want to be doing it, I’m just doing it to pay for my degree,” because obviously, they’re worried about judgments.

It can actually make helping them quite difficult because obviously if a student comes to me and said “I don’t want to be doing sex work,” obviously what I would hear is, “OK, they don’t want to be doing sex work. That’s okay, let’s talk about exit strategies,” and actually, there’s a real value in what you are talking about which is having a conversation with someone holistically, maybe the student is coming to me with sex work because like you said, she could be being stalked, she could be having all these different issues.

Mandi: There seems to be two schools of thought. We work in an educational establishment, we work in an educational sector. I’m very much of the opinion that we need to educate rather than punish if we possibly can. It’s about unpicking the why. Why is this happening? Is it a good reason for it? Is it because somebody’s self-medicating through whatever reason because they’ve got deep distress in them that actually, it needs to be counselling and therapy that we’ll sort that out? Is there something else that’s going on there?

Is it a practical problem actually we genuinely haven’t got any cash and they’re sending some home to support the family or something. I would say that the sector is split. There are some staff that will contact me and say we need to discipline this student. We need to put them through discipline and procedure because we know they are doing something wrong and I think that should always be the last resort, very much. Again, it was very much what Tracy was saying, it’s about last resort. We need to work with the individual to try and unpick what the problem is.

I think also the comment about expecting people to go cold turkey on whatever issue it is, it’s really difficult to try and get them to give up before you give them that support is really difficult and it’s got to be the same with all of these other problematic behaviours. You’ve got to support them to try and address the underlying causes and then at the same time then we can maybe help to address that addiction if we possibly can.

Kevin: Yes, just really again to comment and echo those comments. A big part of our work is that we need to come from that place of understanding because, despite the fact that it’s legal, stigma’s a huge issue around gambling and gambling harm. One of the big things we do is provide that clear definition of what gambling harm is. Gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts, or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits. When we talk about those signs of harm as well, again, we listen to those people with lived experience who say it’s moving beyond just talking about financial harm.

We need to give that equal consideration to how the behaviour is impacting on a young person’s health, how it’s impacting on their relationships, on their leisure time, on their education. It’s not just that loss of money, it’s loss of friendships, of respect, of opportunities, of hope as well.

Jenny: Are we all saying see the whole person? I’m getting a lot of nods. Thank you. Something else that I was keen to explore because of course we are looking at this in a student accommodation setting is what’s the impact more widely on that residential community. I’ve certainly heard things from students who are affected by other students’ drug use for example.

Is there a sense in which some of the risks that are there for the individual student who is involved in this behaviour are transferred onto other students as well within that community and what can we do about that? Mandi, do you want to kick off on this one?

Mandi: Yes, that’s absolutely right because nobody exists in isolation, do they? We’ve all got– Our behaviours will impact at some point on other people. If you’re living in a cluster flat, there’s another five or seven students that are sharing that accommodation with you on a fairly close basis or if you’re in an HMO [House of Multiple Occupancy] again, it’s still on that fairly close basis.

I am aware of situations where a drug dealer has come back to students’ property and threatened other residents that are in there, which is really uncomfortable. Actually, the behaviour of that particular person is putting the others at genuine risk.

I don’t know so much about the sex work. I found what Sunday just said absolutely fascinating. Actually, that point about operating from your own environment, if people are bringing clients back into that environment that again, you don’t know who those clients are, they could be anybody. You leave yourself open.

Gambling, I would imagine is probably a slightly different impact. If students haven’t got money to pay for bills and a student all signed up to the same accommodation contract, then you’re maybe leaving with other people, or again, are they borrowing money from dubious sources to pay off their gambling debts then maybe there might be some dodgy people coming along looking for payback as well.

I don’t think there’s any way that you could see that it couldn’t possibly impact on other people. I think it has to if it’s that problematic, I think it has to have an impact on other people really, particularly the ones that you’re living with.

Sunday: There’s a really important point here, definitely when it comes to sex workers and living with other people where it can make it quite difficult for sex workers to navigate exactly where they see clients. First of all, the law which a lot of outreach organisations are campaigning to change at the moment on brothel-keeping is that if you are found to be brothel-keeping, you can get up to seven years in prison, that can be applied quite harshly to sex workers themselves.

There was a student in Leeds who would go see kerb crawlers basically, which is ultimately, that’s not what we want our students to be doing. It’s not what we want any woman to be doing or any person to be doing. That’s ultimately the most dangerous form of sex work is to be on the outskirts of a city getting into a stranger’s car, but the problem obviously is that the law forces young people to make these decisions. You end up in this impossible situation, which is why I’m really glad that we’re having this conversation around student support.

Then the last point I would say is that as much as we need to think about the student’s behaviour and others, we also need to think about others’ behaviour on the student. When Kev was talking, all I kept thinking about was how almost every year when I was a student, I would be invited to poker nights. I would be invited to gambling-type events and nights where the whole society that I was a member of would be going. Now I was never interested in that environment, but it always made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

I can even imagine how uncomfortable a student who is currently dealing with gambling issues would feel. I think we need to consider the student’s behaviour on others, but also others’ behaviour on the student as well.

Jenny: Thank you, Sunday. I suppose it’s similar to it being useful to have recovery flats for students who have had problems with drugs and now wanting to change their behaviours on that.

I think the big question for me is how do we provide support to students who are engaged in some of these behaviours within a student residential setting, and how do we do it? We’ve already touched on this a little bit, but without enabling or condoning these behaviours, but providing a supportive environment and allowing them to come forward for help as well. How do we do that?

Mandi: We don’t condone, we wouldn’t want to promote any of this, but I think particularly those of us that do work in student support area are fairly realistic and understand that no human being is perfect. We all have our flaws and if somebody has actually been courageous enough to come forward for some help, the last thing they want is somebody criticizing them or telling them off.

I would think that once a student has got to the point where they’re happy to engage with us, we understand that we’re not actually condoning the behaviour. We want to help them because they’re normally at the point where they want to help themselves.

I’m not sure that it would be seen by somebody else as a green light for them to go off and do exactly the same thing that comes back as opposed to somebody’s point about sex work. If you talk about it, it’s not going to make somebody more likely to become a sex worker. It’s about looking at the individual and treating the individual and working with that individual. If somebody was gambling and they were stealing from the other students, that’s a different matter to actually engaging with somebody to help them to get through whatever issues they’re getting through and to build a better life for themselves.

Jenny: Thank you, Mandi. Kev, you wanted to comment on that.

Kevin: Yes. I’m in agreement really with those points there, but I think it’s just that importance to have the knowledge and understanding of when you know that there is an issue, when you know that somebody is potentially experiencing harm. I think a key part as well is to make sure that people are aware that you don’t need to be an expert to have these conversations just as you don’t need to be an expert in other harmful behaviours as well, but you do need to be equipped with the knowledge and understanding of where you can access support both in a university setting, but then also what external supports out there.

We’ve got the national gambling helpline that’s available that’s free 24 hours, 7 days a week. We’ve got self-exclusion tools, we’ve got bank gambling blocks and there’s lots of different things in place. It’s a start, but again, it’s ensuring that we take that holistic approach.

Going back to my time at university, I remember from an accommodation setting up in Glasgow being in halls, the people who worked in those halls of residence were often the people that I would see most regularly throughout my university life and the people who you would trust and who you would speak to get times when you probably felt most vulnerable as well. Those late-night chats that you would have with somebody were invaluable. They’ve got that responsibility and to have these skills as well.

Jenny: Thanks, Kev. Sunday?

Sunday: Yes, I actually wanted to ask Kevin and Mandi a question. Obviously, I talk a lot about how hard it is to define sex work and what makes someone a sex worker, and how some students won’t see themselves as sex workers and I guess Kev you might be able to talk about this from a gambling point of view is that and also drug taking as well.

I recently had a really good conversation with someone who is a secretary at a alcoholics anonymous group about the power of the term alcoholic and using the term alcoholic and saying, “Well this is what alcoholism is and how a lot of people won’t realise that they’re alcoholic until they’re explained to that their behaviour is alcoholism.”

I’m wondering if using the word gambling and teaching students what gambling is, how important that is because one of the things I’m often worried about with sex work is if I go in very strong and I say, “Well, you’re a sex worker, this makes you a sex worker.” I’m often worried that the stigma of that will make a student withdraw. I’m just wondering from a drug-taking point of view or gambling point of view if you’ve had any thoughts or protocol around this at all from your professional experience.

Kevin: Language is crucial. A big thing that we do is we provide that definition of what gambling actually is as well. We talk about betting, gaming, or participating in a lottery. It’s the wagering of something of value, often money on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value.

Now there’s aspects of gaming et cetera that replicate gambling, but I think more importantly our real focus as well is on using that term gambling harm rather than the term problem gambling. We try to move away from using that term safer and responsible gambling as well because what does that actually mean as well?

We’re not constituting total abstinence from gambling because we do understand that many people do gamble and don’t experience gambling harms. It’s important as well to make sure that people are aware that there are certain aspects of gambling, certain gambling products that make them more harmful to people than others. There are certain vulnerabilities that some people may be experience that make them potentially more vulnerable than others. Also that awareness of the amount of advertising that’s out there, et cetera as well.

Jenny: There’s something I’m getting from both of you there about labelling and I think goes back to Mandi’s point about talking to the student, getting them to open up, and talking about their own experience. Mandi, do you want to come in on that?

Mandi: Yes, I just would say all the things that we’ve talked about today have a sliding scale of acceptability, haven’t they? From buying a lottery ticket, which is widely accepted as being a good thing to do because it has good causes right up to the very severe end of gambling. Even when you look at drinking drugs, substance abuse, most people have a glass of wine. If you get a pain, you’ll take a couple of aspirin or something. It’s about extremes, isn’t it?

I think I’m not sure that leaving helps necessarily. You talked about harms, Kevin, to me it’s when it’s a problem. I think when it’s a problem to self or others, I think that’s when it needs to be tackled.

Jenny: Thanks, Mandi. Finally, if there are any students listening today who are struggling with these or similar issues, what would be your message for them, Sunday?

Sunday: My message would be obviously if you’re doing sex work, do try and find a sex worker-led organisation. English Collective of Prostitutes, the Sex Worker Advocacy, and Resistance Movement. There’s a lot of organisations who have their own agenda around sex work, whether it’s abolition of the entire industry, that sort of thing. I have seen some students get quite harmed by getting involved with the wrong organisations, so do look at sex worker-led organisations because they are run by women who have experience of the industry, but they’re also safeguarded.

For example, The English Collective of Prostitutes have loads and loads of resources for migrants, parents, sex workers, and mental health problems, and they’re really ratified by that. In terms of approaching the student union, your advice centre is confidential. It’s separate from the university. It’s not going to get shared with your landlord or your pastoral tutor or anyone. It’s just going to stay between you and the outreach worker or the advisor.

Please don’t feel that your course is at risk or your place at university is at risk. The vast majority of the institutions will want to help you, keep you safe, retain you as a student, and ensure the most success that you can achieve going forward.

Jenny: That’s great. Thanks, Sunday. Kev?

Kev: I think my advice if you feel that you’re struggling with gambling or you know somebody who potentially is struggling with gambling as well, our key message is, there is help out there. As I mentioned previously, you can ban transactions with your bank. There’s self-exclusion tools available through the likes of GAMSTOP and Gamban. There are various apps as well. There’s a RecoverMe app, which has been designed by psychologists and those with lived experience.

It carries a range of CBT tools that are available to students as well. There’s many other support services including that national gambling helpline, which I’ve already mentioned, which is free to phone. We have our own website as well at where you can get information that’s been written by our team of students for students as well to support them with many more localised support services that are available.

Mandi: Or just reach out, speak to somebody. Whether it’s your accommodation welfare team, whether it’s a welfare team within the university, whether it’s a welfare team, the students union advice. We’ve seen it all before, we’re not going to be shocked because we’re here to help you. We’re employed to help you stay in the program and get the best out of your education and life eventually afterwards as well. So I really would say we’re not going to judge; please reach out if you need to.

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