Working with internal staff

Discover the internal staff who can work together and input into drug harm reduction work, with case study examples of how to do this.

Working with internal staff

Throughout the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme, we (SOS-UK) have worked with a number of internal staff, including but not limited to the following:

  • Head of Student Support
  • Head of Student Engagement
  • Healthy University Officer
  • Residence Support Manager
  • Community Manager
  • Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner
  • Dean for Students
  • Assistant Director of Charitable Services
  • Head of Advice, Community and Welfare


• Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner at UWE (Bristol)

An example of working with internal staff comes from UWE and their introduction of a Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner, based within the wellbeing team and specifically the UWE Drug and Alcohol Service. This role is a fantastic addition to the internal staff as they have the opportunity to offer internal support and to be available on campus, but also to be actively involved in the Drug and Alcohol Impact work, including campaigns that UWE take part in.

The Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner offers students one-off harm reduction appointments, ongoing structured treatment and harm reduction awareness sessions at key points throughout the year. Therefore, both directly supporting students in the capacity they need, but also contributing to educating students. The Senior Drug and Alcohol Practitioner can offer in-house support for those struggling with drugs and alcohol. It is understood that this service has enabled students to have both one-off harm reduction appointments in addition to ongoing structured treatment.

It has been recognised that 42.9%of the students accessing the support available via the UWE Drug and Alcohol Service advised that they would not have accessed support for drug and/or alcohol use externally.

• Student Support Services Team (or equivalent) are actively involved in supporting Drug and Alcohol Impact

At the University of Leeds, their student support services are actively involved in supporting the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme which is important due to their direct engagements with students. Additionally, Leeds University Union runs a student support service that provides help or advice to students, and referrals can be made to other services. The student unions’ Head of Help and Support and the university’s Head of Student Support are both actively involved in the Drug and Alcohol Impact Steering Group.

At UWE, the students’ union has a strong working relationship with the various areas of student services, with a particular focus on issues relating to students and alcohol. The university and students’ union have various stakeholders from Student Services involved with the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme.

At Keele University, the Student Services team are leading the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme in partnership with the Students’ Union. To support the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme and benefit the wellbeing of students, the Student Services have delivered numerous campaigns and initiatives related to responsible alcohol consumption. Additionally, the Head of Residence Life led the development and review of the university’s approach to substance misuse policy. Another fundamental way that Student Services at Keele University are involved in supporting the programme comes from them being the main contact link between the university and the local substance misuse recovery service.

• Other student services staff (university and students’ union)

The training of internal staff is a key focus for many of our universities and students’ union’s on the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme, as this is a way to foster a whole institution approach to the situation, rather than small pockets of good practice.

At UWE drug awareness training is provided to all accommodation staff, ensuring that they are in a position to approach and manage student drug use within university accommodation, to protect the wellbeing of students and uphold the university’s policy on such. Additionally, at the students’ Union, commercial staff receive training such as presidents training, late night do it right training, with permanent bar staff and student staff also receiving training.

At Keele University, resident advisers receive training on drugs and alcohol, university initiatives, and support available for those with drug and/or alcohol issues or concerns. Additionally, the street team volunteers receive training with a focus on handling alcohol and drug-related incidents and the support available. Keele University also provide formal training related to alcohol consumption and drug harm reduction to all bar staff, resident advisors, mental health Peer Supporters, security staff, SU elected officers, society committee members, student services staff, domestic and student facing estates staff.

At the University of Leeds, Leeds University Union introduced Wellbeing Event Reps (student staff who maintain a wellbeing space and help students with various issues from health concerns to charging phones). These Wellbeing Event Reps receive training on how to identify students who may be in need of help due to drug use, the support options available for students, along with how to engage in conversations with students about their drug use.


The interactions between university and students’ union staff is vital, particularly for universities and students’ union’s taking part in Drug and Alcohol Impact. Through frequent engagement and working together, the university and students’ union are able to ensure that they offer consistency to students.

It is important and beneficial for both the university and students’ union as a partnership to share and agree on their drugs and/or alcohol policy. When the two share a drug and/or alcohol policy, and so share the same approach to use, misuse and/or treatment, students can be confident that they will receive the same approach from both.

• University and students' union sharing similar drug awareness and education information, with the same stance on it

An example comes from UWE, wherein both the university and the students’ union share drug awareness and education information on their respective websites, offering consistency to students regarding their stance on it, with that being a harm reduction one. The community module (Be Kind and Keep Safe) that is delivered to new and returning students is delivered by the university and it makes the harm reduction approach evident. The students’ union has a harm reduction page on their website, in addition to their Let’s Talk About Drugs videos, again illustrating their harm reduction focus. Via the health and wellbeing section on their website, the university share support and information around drugs including alcohol. The students’ union share information and resources regarding drugs and alcohol via their website, social media, and through their Let’s Talk About Drugs videos.


• Engaging with academic staff in regards to student drug and/or alcohol use

At Keele University, as an example of the importance of engaging with academic staff to inform the work that takes place and the approach toward student drug and/or alcohol use, Dr Sam Weston, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology is a member of the Drug and Alcohol Impact Steering Group. Additionally, Dr Weston represents the university at the Addiction Recovery on Campus Network at the University of Birmingham which aims to develop a ‘Collegiate Recovery Programme’ for students in recovery from drug and alcohol dependencies. Therefore, Dr Sam Weston brings a lot of experience and vital insights into Keele’s involvement with the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme and contributes to informing the decisions and work that takes place.

UWE has engaged with numerous academic staff members in their primary research relating to Alcohol Impact. Included within this is the core research team who contribute to the Alcohol Impact working group and the development of interventions that are alcohol-focused. Also, the peripheral academic staff who work on wider university projects relevant to student alcohol consumption. Additionally, UWE engage with and value student research involvement.


At the University of Leeds, there is a Drug & Alcohol Steering Group wherein the members discuss the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme, their involvement with it and the work that they are doing or intend to do. The members of the group include students’ union and university staff, in addition to students.

At Keele University, their steering group focused on drugs and alcohol is co-chaired by the Residence Life Manager and the Serious Incident Case Officer, it consists of university and students’ union staff and it is overseen by the Health University Group which is chaired by the PVC for Health and Wellbeing.

UWE have a Health and Wellbeing Strategy Group, their overarching group that is responsible for the governance of Health and Wellbeing. This group is chaired by a member of the Directorate and it is made up of senior members of staff at UWE, the student unions’ Community Manager and Vice-President for Community and Welfare also attend. Furthermore, Drug and Alcohol Impact reports into UWE’s Healthy University Group.



Having staff resources available in order for a university and students’ union to adequately implement Drug and Alcohol Impact and be able to work towards achieving accreditation is important.

At the University of Leeds, Wellbeing Event Reps (student staff who maintain a wellbeing safe space, and promote the space during the event and on social media; help students in distress and/or with various issues) were introduced and serve as a way to implement Drug and Alcohol Impact. The Wellbeing Event Reps are a paid resource who are fundamental to foster and protect the wellbeing of students, but also to effectively implement Drug and Alcohol Impact and the associated initiatives.

Keele University have Residence Life Managers, they have a lead role in ensuring that activities and support are delivered to students within university accommodation in order to enhance the student experience and enable student success. The Residence Life Managers work with staff across the university to deliver initiative to encourage a holistic approach to the wellbeing of students.

At UWE, Campus Life Assistants support students living in university accommodation and private rent accommodation. These staff enable students to understand their role and responsibilities within the community and to positively contribute to student life, but also be supported to model healthy and inclusive behaviours. The Campus Life Assistants help to bring students together informally and provide friendly but professional peer to peer support.



At the University of Leeds, Drug and Alcohol Impact is led by key members of staff from both the students’ union and the university. The students’ union’s Head of Student Engagement oversees the students’ union’s engagement and involvement with the programme. This member of staff also chairs the Steering and Working Groups, oversees a renewed focus on the programme in regard to drugs and alcohol, such as a coordinated culture shift for large events, along with setting targets around wellbeing and non-alcohol-focused activities for key welcome periods. The university’s Head of Student Support attends Steering Groups, and works closely with the students’ union on the programme and in order to offer a coordinated and consistent approach to student welfare and wellbeing.

At Keele University, many senior staff members within both the university and the students’ union are committed to the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme. The Pro Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellbeing oversees the university’s Healthy University Group, where the Drug and Alcohol Steering Group feed into. At each meeting, an update is provided on the work being done within the Drug and Alcohol Steering Group, any further issues or challenges are resolved at this level. Furthermore, the Healthy university Group has funded one of the Drug and Alcohol Steering Group’s largest pieces of work, the peer support scheme. Senior staff within Student Services are committed to the programme both in terms of staff time and financial support.

At UWE, the students’ union expressed their commitment to being involved in the pilot for the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme. The Registrar and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) has sponsored and endorses UWE’s membership on the programme for the last five years and continues the support. Furthermore, the focus of drugs and alcohol remains a specific objective for the Health and Wellbeing Strategy Manager to keep the Directorate and the Registrar and Pro Vice-Chancellor updated with developments. The Dean for Students, is also actively involved and supports the involvement with the programme.



At the University of Leeds, a staff member from the University Residential team is involved with the Drug and Alcohol Steering group. There are alcohol-free events (e.g., craft sessions and ‘crafternoons’) run in collaboration between the students’ union and the Residences Team. Various trips were also organised for students, such as Halloween cinema trips offering an alternative to the typical Halloween parties and club nights. A mini film festival across halls of residences was also organised where hall executives were encouraged to hold their own film nights, showing films directed/written or produced by women.

At Keele University, the Drug and Alcohol Steering Group is co-chaired by two members from the Keele Residence Life Team.

At UWE (Bristol) accommodation staff are involved in the Drug and Alcohol Impact programme, they work with the students’ union to work toward achieving the accreditation, they also work closely with the Student Life Team.

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