Ministers decide against changing the law for universities to bring in legal duty of care

  • Fiona Marley Paterson sat down with one of the mothers who has been campaigning in memory of her son

The families of students who've taken their own lives were at Westminster today as MPs debate whether universities should have a statutory duty of care for those who are studying.

Oskar Carrick from Kendal is one of those who died and his family has joined others who lost their children to suicide to call for a change in the law.

Their petition received more than 100,000 signatures, prompting a debate in Parliament on Monday.

"I am nervous but hopeful that things are going to change. It is not going to change today, I know that. If we can start that ball rolling however - that would be a positive thing" said Maxine Carrick, Oskar's mother.

Gary Potts, Oskar's father, said: "We are optimistic. We feel like we have got a really strong argument. We have support and we are really motivated to carry on and see this through."

Andrew Western, MP for Stretford and Urmston, said: "The response so far appears to fall somewhere in between the nothing to see here approach.

"That this would be a disproportionate response as suicide rates among students are relatively low and the why regulate when this happens anyway argument.

"Except if this happens anyway what is the problem with regulating existing practice."

The Carricks make up just one of the 25 families who are calling for change.

Mrs Carrick started campaigning on the issue following her son's death in 2021.

Robert Halfon, Higher Education Minister said "A general duty of care already exists in common law as part of the law of negligence. That means Higher Education providers must deliver educational and pastoral standards to an ordinarily competent institution."

In a statement, Sheffield Hallam University, where Oskar studied, offered its condolences to his family and friends, adding: "The inquest into Oskar's tragic death did not reference any failings on the part of the university.

"The coroner also commented that she was content the university was engaging with discussions surrounding consent on a sector-wide national level.

"We take supporting our students' mental health and wellbeing extremely seriously.

"In recent years we have significantly increased resources to provide access to a wide range of support services, whilst every student has access to dedicated advisors.

"The university also works closely with the Students' Union, the city council and local health authorities to help keep our communities safe."

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