Sunday, 16 June 2019

Mental health connections

[UK Column 7th June 2019 ]

"This is a website which has this amazing story:  `UK University to monitor social media accounts to identify suicidal students` and it`s by a gentleman called David McCourt."

"`Northumbria University in the North East of England is set to take the radical step of using data collected from students` social media accounts in a bid to reduce climbing student suicide rates. The higher educational institution, located in Newcastle upon Tyne, will create an Early Alert Tool to offer aid to undergrads in crisis`."

"So this was a bit more of it. So the university is working in partnership with nine other organisations on the project and they`ve been awarded funding by the Office for Students (OfS). A total of £14.5 million has been put aside by OfS, £6 million of which will go to the social media scanning project, and another £8.5 million going to nine other collaborative projects."

"Now I find this quite extraordinary," says Brian Gerrish, "That these sums of money are being put into watching students` social media. "

"This is another paragraph: `Few details were given about what information exactly would be mined from students` social media accounts. The project will raise concerns about the invasion of privacy, but these issues could be eased somewhat by an opt-in policy that requires students to consent to being part of the program`."

"Now we spoke to the Office for Students and said: `Well, are students going to be able to opt in or opt out? And they said to us that: `Well they don`t know at the moment because the project hasn`t really been formulated`. So we`ve given money for a project which the donor of that public money doesn`t even know what these key details are about."

Mike Robinson comments: "So they`re going to hoover up all this data. Now twitter, facebook and so on, they provide apps to do that. So take part in those platforms, anybody can hoover up your data. But the question here for me is: is this going to end at identifying people that are at risk of suicide or perhaps will they be looking at other forms of thought crime?"

Brian Gerrish: "Well is this just going to be one arm of the Prevent strategy and project Channel, so that if you dare express anything the state believes is right wing extremist you`re going to be reported through to the Prevent system?"

"Let`s have a look at what the Chief Executive said. This is Nicola Dandridge and she said: `Whenever I talk to students, improving mental health support is consistently raised as a priority. Taking preventative action to promote good mental health is critical, as is taking a whole institution approach and involving students in developing solutions..."

"So apparently, we`re at the stage where students are not thinking about their education and how good that education is, they`re preoccupied with their mental health. If that`s true, we`re in a pretty serious position. I`m not sure what the truth is, but we`ll just follow this through a bit."

"Here`s the Office for Students. They`re independent, Mike, as always. They were appointed by central government, and they`re connected through to central government, but they are independent." 

"And we`ve got some interesting people here. Here`s Sir Michael Barber, the chair, and he started out as chief adviser to the Secretary of State for Education in 1997 and he was part of the Prime Minister`s Delivery Unit. So very much an establishment man but everything is independent of government here. And he did a little bit of work with consultancy McKinsey who, of course, has done a lot of work in most governments."

"We`ve got Gurpreet Dehal. He`s a trustee of the multi-school academy trust E-ACT. He also holds non-executive positions with the Ministry of Defence and Equity UK..."

"And we`ve got Martin Coleman, deputy chairman of the board and chairs the Provider Risk Committee. And I found this interesting... he`s a trustee of an organisation called Police Now. I had no idea what that was. So we followed through. Here it is."

"`Join us, change the story, and `Police Now is on a mission to `transform communities, reduce crime and increase the public`s confidence in policing by recruiting and developing outstanding and diverse individuals to be leaders in society and on the policing frontlines`. So you`re not a policeman any more. You`re going to be changing the whole of society."

Mike Robinson: "So this is Common Purpose for police."

"It`s Common Purpose for police; I would say so. And we`ve got some interesting people here. So we`ve got a David Spencer,  co-founder and chief executive officer. He was an officer in the Met Police. So I suppose that makes sense. But he`s done a lot of political degrees... If you have a look at the bottom."

`Dave has a Business degree from the University of Sheffield, a Masters degree in US Politics from the University of London, and is currently studying his research Masters in Politics from the University of London`. 

"We`ve got another police constable there, Tor Garnett... So Sir Ian Powell we`ve got, left Pricewaterhouse Coopers on 13th of June 2016 on completion of his second and final four year term as chairman and senior partner.  Pricewaterhouse, of course, very interesting company with lots of very big government contracts, but he then joined the board of Capita PLC on 1st September as chairman designate. So he`s chairman of Police Now and a member of the committee for the National Gallery."

"So interesting connections. And the other gentleman there, James Darley - well he`s been working in graduate recruitment and he`s got a background in credit Swiss bank. And it`s just interesting to say how does this relationship work? [It`s] where we`re really coming to. And I can`t explain it."

"No," says Mike Robinson.

"We could go on a little bit more. We`ll just do these. Director general for tax and welfare at HM Treasury, James Bowler. So he, according to this report, is the Director General for tax and welfare at HM Treasury."

Mike Robinson: "But he`s helping Police Now transform secure society."


"Good stuff."


Mike Robinson: "I mean what can we say about this?"

"Not a lot."

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