Staff Guidance for UCL Trusted Contact Policy

This page provides UCL staff with clear guidelines related to the appropriate use of a student’s trusted contact.

A trusted contact is like a next of kin. This could be a parent, sibling, spouse, or friend who the student has a close relationship with, and who they’ve nominated for us to contact if there is a serious concern regarding their wellbeing or safety. At pre-enrolment, students must provide at least one trusted contact. Whilst enrolled at UCL, a student can add, remove, or update their trusted contact details on Portico.  

It is the responsibility of all UCL staff to provide a safe and supportive environment that helps students overcome any personal or academic barriers and realise their full potential. Many student welfare concerns can be supported and resolved by working with the student to identify the support they may need from the university, external agencies such as the NHS, or their wider support networks, including family members and trusted contacts.  

To manage students’ expectations and to build trust and transparency, when having conversations with a student about their welfare, staff should advise the student that absolute confidentiality cannot be promised and if required information will be shared with trusted contacts in accordance with UCL’s Trusted Contact policy, UCL’s Student Privacy Policy and UCL Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) privacy policy. 

With the increased risk noted throughout the sector, a priority has been placed within UCL on safeguarding its students. UCL’s approach is aligned with the Information Commissioner’s Office guidance for universities that staff when information sharing are to act in the ‘best interests’ of its students and not solely ‘vital interests’.  

In the student policy, the following examples are given as to why the university may reach out to a trusted contact: 

  • Reports that a student is missing.  
  • Serious physical illness or injury.  
  • A student’s mental health is deteriorating, or the student is experiencing a mental health crisis.  
  • Admittance to hospital.  
  • Reports of risky and unwanted behaviours that can cause serious harm.  
  • A student is not engaging with their department or professional support, and there is a known risk or serious concern for their health or safety. 
  • A student is not repeatedly engaging with their department or professional support and this is unexplained, and staff have tried to contact them over a period of time by email and phone. 

Where possible, staff should attempt to consult with and inform the student they will be contacting their trusted contact. The staff member with an established relationship with the student is often best placed to make this contact. 

However, the scenarios outlined below provide guidance to staff on what steps should be taken when getting a student’s consent has either not been possible, or a decision has been made that the trusted contact should be made aware of a serious concern because it’s in the student’ best interest to do so.  

When there is an immediate risk of harm

If a student has contacted a UCL staff member to say that they have an active intent to cause harm to themselves or have hurt themselves, staff should take the following action:  

During the working day (9am-5pm)

  • Call emergency services and ask them to do a welfare-check at the student’s address. If the student is known to be on campus, contact UCL Security on an internal UCL phone on 222 or by calling +44 (0)20 7679 2222.  
  • Submit a Student of Concern (SoC) to make the Student Support and Wellbeing Team (SSW) aware so that they can coordinate aftercare for the student, reaching out to any relevant external support services and to the trusted contact. 

Out of hours (between 5pm-9am, and all day on the weekends and bank holidays) 

Although there are no expectations for staff to check or respond to work outside their contracted hours, situations may arise whereby staff receive a concerning correspondance from a student outside of the standard working day, and where there is an immediate or life threatening risk to a student, staff are asked to take the following action: 

  • Call emergency services, asking them to do a welfare-check at the students’ address. If the student is on campus or living in UCL student residence, If the student is known to be on campus, contact UCL Security on an internal UCL phone on 222 or by calling +44 (0)20 7679 2222. 
  • Call the trusted contact. Trusted contact details can be found on the student summary section on Portico. 
  • For international students, if they’re known to be abroad, or you’re unable to get through to the trusted contact, or the trusted contacts do not speak English, when speaking to the emergency services you can request that the police liaise with Interpol to report the incident to the relevant countries’ authorities.  
  • Submit a SoC report to make SSW aware so that they can coordinate aftercare for the student and reach out to any relevant external support services. Please confirm in your SoC report any actions that have already been taken, including if and which trusted contacts have been spoken to. 

Student non-engagement

If a staff member identifies a student who has unexplained non-engagement, the department is recommended to follow the below steps: 

  • Call the student on their personal mobile number. 
  • Email the student on their UCL and personal email addresses or write a formal letter to the student’s home address.  
  • Check if the student is already known to SSW and is receiving any on-going welfare support.  
  • Check whether a student of concern has already been submitted by the department.  
  • Consult with departmental, graduate or faculty tutors as appropriate. 
  • Check if the student is already known to SSW and is receiving on-going welfare support. Previous referrals to SSW are often locally recorded by departments, however, you can also check with SSW by either emailing student.wellbeing@ucl.ac.uk or contacting us on 0203108 8836 (call option 1).

When there is no known serious welfare or safety concerns

If there is no known safety or serious welfare concerns, email the student to explain that the department is concerned by their non-engagement and as part of their professional duty of care, the department will shortly be in contact with the nominated trusted contact and provide a timeframe.  

If there is no response from the student, the staff member can locate the students’ trusted contact details on the student summary section on Portico. They should both call and email the trusted contact. If the staff member is uncertain about taking this action they should consult with departmental, graduate or faculty tutors as appropriate or contact the Data Protection team for guidance.  

If the trusted contact does not speak English, staff can contact the UCL Centre for Translation Studies to see if they’re able to recommend translation services. If you’re writing to the trusted contact, you can also consider using the online resource Deepl.com

If a staff member is concerned that the trusted contact recorded on the system is not an appropriate contact because it could jeopardise the student’s safety or significantly worsen the student’s relationship with their trusted contact, they should seek advice from their faculty/departmental management team or SSW before making contact.  

If, after having a conversation with the trusted contact, it is apparent that there are serious welfare or safety concerns, but the student is not at immediate risk, the department should submit a SoC form outlining in the summary the steps they’ve taken to support the student, including that they’ve contacted the trusted contact. In your SoC please be detailed as to what the welfare concern is. The department itself may also need to take further action in accordance with UCL’s Support to Study procedures. 

If there are no known safety or welfare concerns, a SoC does not need to be submitted, but a record of the conversation should be kept locally within the department.  

Student is already known to the Student Support and Wellbeing Team

If the student is already known to SSW and is receiving ongoing support from the service, a SoC should be submitted if there is any new information to share regarding the student’s condition that the team needs to be aware of to effectively support the student.  

Where possible, SSW will consult the student and seek their consent to speak to a trusted contact. The team will clarify to the student that this contact is being made as part of a professional duty of care and to create a network of safety and support for the student, helping reduce any further risk.  If the nominated trusted contact is deemed inappropriate by the student, due to their personal circumstances, the team will work with the student to find an alternative source of support.  

However, in the absence of consent, SSW staff will assess whether contacting a trusted contact is in the best interest of the student and will contact the trusted contact if required. These decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and will always consider any contextual factors that could negatively impact the student’s wellbeing or safety.  

Keeping trusted contact(s) up to date

If a student provides UCL with an updated trusted contact via email or during a conversation, staff should in the first instance encourage the student to update this themselves on Portico.  

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team are able to update the trusted contact details on the students behalf, when it is deemed appropriate to do so.  When any change is made to the trusted contact by the team, the student will receive an email to notify them that a change has been made and that they can log in to Portico to view this.

Last updated: Monday, August 21, 2023