Vulnerable Students' Support Service

The Vulnerable Students' Support Service (VSSS) provides support to the most vulnerable students, including assisting staff managing crises and emergencies.

It is led by Richard Edwards, Head of Student Wellbeing. Cases are managed by his colleagues Laura Brown, Clare Derrett, Stella Eastwood-Quinn and Pete Wilgoss.

Advice and guidance you can read now about a range of common issues

A series of guidance to help staff provide a consistent responses to students at risk is available. Log on to the staff-only area (SSO required) of this website to view. The VSSS team will use these wherever they are applicable to your situation.

What does the service do?

The Vulnerable Students' Support Service coordinates support for our most vulnerable students who are, for whatever reason, having difficulties functioning or continuing their studies for non-academic reasons. A coordinated, multidisciplinary response is given based on all available information. We work closely with staff in academic schools and students are supported by the most appropriate service(s) from within Student Services and/or from the NHS. Wherever possible we prefer to provide pre-emptive support but we are experienced in managing crises.

So what specifically would you do if I contacted you?

The response to each case is based on the individual circumstances of that case. However, we will gather as much information as we can from you, your colleagues and other relevant parties in order to build as complete a picture as possible. Usually one person is assigned to manage a case, with support from a team as required. We do not aim to take over as an emergency service save in exceptional crisis circumstances. We will work with you to support you and the student(s) concerned.

We developed a series of guidance notes to consistently help students at risk. Login using SSO to the staff-only area to view these. If your circumstances can be helpfully addressed using this guidance, we will ask you to use it and come to us for any additional help.

We can liaise with colleagues in Student Services and the local statutory services though our well-established links in order to gather information and refer students for help. We are used to having difficult and unusual conversations with people in distress, and supporting staff who may never have been involved in a situation like the one they are in before. We work with the Secretary's Office and Faculty Offices to implement rules and regulations, including the Fitness to Study Policy.

There may be occasions when we decline to take a case. This will only be where we feel there are other sources of support which are more appropriate and you will always be guided about how to make that happen.

When should I contact you?

  • When you are not confident about the answer
  • If the circumstances are new to you
  • Where you risk setting precedent
  • Where you risk establishing a single point of failure
  • Where you don’t have the authority to make a decision about a case
  • If the situation isn’t managed by relevant people
  • If you feel a situation is escalating

Our aim is to work with staff to provide advice and guidance so that they can manage the case themselves wherever possible.

What examples can you share?

In the last two years we have worked on cases of students with undiagnosed or unsupported mental ill health including first incidents of psychosis, the consequences of addiction, those who are seemingly missing, victims of domestic violence, managing family estrangements, and many more.

When is the service available?

The service operates during regular office hours, Monday to Friday year round except on University closure days.

How do I access the service?

Please note that the Service accepts referrals from University staff and NHS colleagues only; if you are a student concerned about someone, please talk to a member of staff first and they can contact the Service if necessary.

In the first instance call 0117 331 0419 or email vulnerable-students@bristol.ac.uk. In the event of an emergency out of hours, please call University Security 24 hours a day on 0117 331 1223 or if the issue is in a Unite property, please call Unite Security on 0300 303 1611. Please note that this will not result in a response from the Vulnerable Students' Support Service; we will be able to provide support during the next working day.

Can someone from the team brief staff about the service and working with students at risk?

Yes, training is available on request. Please contact Richard Edwards, Head of Student Wellbeing for details.

Mental ill health emergency response

Find out what to do in a mental health emergency (PDF, 984kB).

Talk to us

If you are concerned about a student, please call the team on 0117 331 0419 during office hours.

If there is an emergency, please call Security Services on 0117 331 1223, 24 hours a day.

Please email non-urgent queries to vulnerable-students@bristol.ac.uk.

Please note that the Service accepts referrals from University staff and NHS colleagues only; if you are a student concerned about someone, please talk to a member of staff first and they can contact the Service if necessary.