The LHSU Advice Centre has a clear vision and commitment. It is this that motivates advisors and is at the heart of everything that they do.
The Centre was established to help Hope SU members resolve any problematic relations they may be having with the University, particularly in academic-related matters, and provide legal advice in the areas of disability / mental health, employment, housing, money / debt and welfare rights.
The Centre provides advice, information and representation, in addition to positively influencing policymakers both within and beyond the University. It aims to be accessible, and its advice and information is free, independent, confidential and impartial.
The mission of the service is the pursuit of the following five principles:
Fairness and Justice – The Centre strives to provide access to fairness and justice in the form of transparent advice encompassing all the strategies, legal protection and options available to students experiencing problems.
Empowerment – The Centre will offer holistic information and advice about a student’s rights and responsibilities so that they are equipped to make informed choices about their situation.
Accessibility – The Centre will strive to be accessible to students. Reasonable steps will be taken to accommodate needs related to disability, ethnic minorities, and student location and lifestyle, etc.
Accountability and Partnership – The Centre will remain accountable to Hope SU members and will remain steadfastly independent of those policymakers that it needs to influence. However, in the pursuit of its mission, constructive partnerships will be encouraged and embraced.
The Centre operates within a Quality Assurance framework. Its staff will work towards Key Performance Indicators. Performance will be assessed annually and KPIs revised as necessary.
There will be three service areas. They are: advice and information, representation at hearings, and social policy work.
Access will be by face-to-face meetings, telephone consultations, email enquiries, and online via a self-help pages on the LHSU website.
The Centre was set up in June 2014.
One of the objects in the LH Students’ Union Constitution (created 2011, Revised 2013) is “promoting the interests and welfare of students at LH University during their course of study and representing, supporting and advising members”. One of the SU’s powers to further this object is to “provide or appoint others to provide advice, guidance, representation and advocacy”.
A recent Diagnostic Report on LHSU by the NUS Strategic Support Unit recognised that Sabbatical Officers giving advice to individual students was a ‘perceived risk’ to the organisation’s reputation and credibility (point 5.3.3). The report quotes various interviewees: “officers advising students and giving the wrong information is a worry” and “officers deliver advice and it’s a big weakness”. One stakeholder said that “officers try and do things they’re not qualified to do”.
Such concerns were known before the Report was even written. Accordingly, LHSU’s Board of Trustees decided to act and the role of ‘Advice & Advocacy Coordinator’ (AAC) was created.
The Sabbatical Officers now refer all advice related queries to the AAC. They work together on collective issues and individual cases with pressing policy implications.
It is the AAC’s job to be responsible for the delivery and development of a new SU student advice service that is responsive, timely, confidential and appropriately structured to meet the identified needs of Liverpool Hope students.
The Centre wishes to avoid unnecessary duplication of services with the University and others. Our housing advice is currently provided by Liverpool Student Homes (on Mondays). Also, we have already entered into discussions with other University-based advisors to minimise the duplication risk. For example, the Centre will be referring all student finance and benefits cases to the Student/Welfare Benefit Adviser. In turn, she will be referring all debt cases to the Centre.
However, the Centre’s main focus will be on advice and individual advocacy on academic / university related matters.
We see ourselves as an integral part of the LHU community but, although we receive most of our funding from the University, we are not a department of the University and are free to challenge University decisions on behalf of students. It is this independence which marks the SU Advice Centre out as a vital contribution to the health and vitality of the LHU community. In effect, the SU Advice Centre is a ‘critical friend’ to the University; helping it remain true to its ethos and achieve its goals in relation to student satisfaction, student retention and the Student Charter, etc.