News Editor Megan Stanley spoke to this year’s candidates for the role of Welfare and Community Officer in the 2019 Guild Elections
The Welfare and Community Officer prioritises UoB students’ health and wellbeing, particularly in relation to mental health and housing.
The candidates running for the position this year are listed alphabetically by their surname on this page. Voting for Guild Elections opens at 10 AM on Monday 25th February and closes at 4 PM on Friday 1st March, with the results announced on Saturday 2nd March. Vote HERE.
‘I’ve personally been through the welfare system and had lots of housing difficulties and I think there are a lot of gaps that can be filled,’ Amelia ‘Millie’ Gibbins told Redbrick when asked why she’s running for Welfare and Community Officer.
‘Mermaid Millie’ is a final- year English student, who said: ‘I’ve had three amazing years at uni and I want everyone to have as an amazing time as I’ve had. I really care about people and I really want everyone to get the best that they can out of the University.’
Her campaign is focusing on four areas: mental health, crime, wellbeing, and housing.
Gibbins is very passionate about student mental health and would work closely with the University to ensure services are improved in each department.
‘I think there are not enough welfare tutors in each school, and I think increasing the number of them is the first place to start. I think in English there’s 1,200 people and just two welfare tutors, which is just ridiculous.’
Gibbins will also work to make sure there are guaranteed follow-up appointments and improvement for postgraduate welfare support.
In terms of crime, Gibbins will lobby to keep funding for the Selly Express and increase funding for and the number of community wardens. ‘The University just aren’t listening to what students want and I think if they can afford the Green Heart then they can afford to keep funding a night bus that is essential for student safety.’
If elected, Gibbins will introduce ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions, which would be extra support for students on top of Nightline, counsellors and welfare tutors. Gibbins told Redbrick that the sessions would be run by student volunteers to make sure ‘everybody has somebody there that will listen.’
Gibbins hopes to increase awareness of the ‘Not On’ campaign by introducing more workshops, as well as working alongside more external charities and organisations.
Gibbins will also work to create a ‘TripAdvisor for landlords’ to help students find suitable housing by comparing landlords and houses before signing contracts.
In terms of why the students should vote for her, Gibbins said: ‘I think people should vote for me because I’m a friendly face and I’m very approachable. I really care about people, I feel everyone should have someone to talk to and I would love to be that person.’
Alex ‘The Lion’ Chantrell is a fourth-year music student who completed a study abroad year in Cincinnati, USA.
‘A quarter of students are expected to have some sort of mental health issue during their time at university. I think the welfare position is something I want to be a part of and I want to influence those sort areas of university life,’ Chantrell told Redbrick.
‘My experience at university has been so positive and amazing and I want students to have a similar experience and I think the welfare role has so much influence.’
His manifesto focuses on four points: care, sexual health, catering, and nighttime safety.
If elected, Chantrell intends to work with mental health charities such as Birmingham Mind and the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust. In terms of sexual health, Chantrell would form and maintain connections with Umbrella and Brook.
‘My main goal would be to bring pop-up clinics that would be every few weeks. I would like to reduce the taboo around sex and make these resources as readily available to students as possible.’
Chantrell also wants mental health information to be provided in the freshers’ welcome packs: ‘I think more can be done to promote these kinds of services.’
After completing his third year at the University of Cincinnati, Chantrell hopes to bring some of their schemes to the University of Birmingham. ‘They have so many counsellors and instant access to things […] for as long as you want. I’m inspired by their efficiency to try and adopt a similar sort of service here.
‘I know it will be difficult because of funding and issues but I think we need more staff and more counsellors,’ continued Chantrell.
Another manifesto point that is inspired by his time in Ohio is a night ride service that would potentially replace the Selly Express service.
‘Obviously I want to lobby for more funding for the Selly Express but by having a night ride service we could employ student drivers either in partnership with the Guild or with Worklink by creating new employment opportunities.’
The new service would be issued through a mobile app where the driver would be able to come to you and take you home.
‘It’s quite ambitious but I’ve seen it work abroad so I feel like the best person to adapt and manage a similar service if possible,’ Chantrell added.
Finally, Chantrell told Redbrick why students should vote for him: ‘I think a lot of people would say I’m open and approachable and, having served as a student representative for the music department for the last two years, I’m used to meetings and influencing policy change. I’m not afraid to speak up on behalf of my peers.’