SU Advice Workers help with individual student enquiries, and where more than one student party is involved, a conflict of interest, or perceived conflict of interest, could arise where an adviser may not be able to give independent impartial advice to a student. This could happen, for example, where:
- there is a dispute between two student housemates and both approach advice(su) for help
- a student is making an allegation about another student and is seeking support with that complaint
- where two or more students are involved in a university disciplinary case and are presenting defences which implicate another student
- a student seeks advice relating to an issue that implicates a member or uea(su) staff.
It is possible that students on more than one side of a case will seek support from advice(su). This may in itself be perceived as a conflict of interest. However, particularly for matters that relate to the University’s General Regulations, there is no other provider of impartial advice and guidance in the locality to which students could ordinarily be referred.
Practices for dealing with conflicts of interest vary across the sector including a “first come first served” arrangement by where only the first party in a case to seek support will be offered it.
uea(su) and advice(su) believes that no student should be left without impartial support. Therefore, advice(su) will offer equitable impartial support to all its members and this policy sets out the practises and steps advice(su) will take to ensure no conflict of interest arises where practicable to do so.
We maintain records of cases which are accessible to all advice workers and overseen by the Advice and Welfare Manager and Head of Advice, Community and Welfare which enables us to identify potential conflicts of interest.
We also ask students requesting appointments to inform us before they make an appointment if another student is involved and inform us of their identity so that we can check for conflicts.
Where a student is raising an issue relating to uea(su) staff, this should be dealt with through uea(su)’s internal complaints procedure. Students are able to receive support for this via UEA Student Services.
Procedure where a conflict of interest is identified
When an advice worker or member of reception staff identifies cases of actual or potential conflict of interest they will inform the Advice and Welfare Manager as soon as practicable.
Where two or more students seek advice separately from advice(su) regarding the actions of another and this is known to us prior to initial advice being given we will ensure, where possible, each student is allocated a separate advice worker and advise the Advice and Welfare Manager of this potential conflict. If it is not possible to allocate another advice worker then another appropriate member of uea(su) staff will be offered as a source of support for uea related issues. For non-uea issues students may be referred to other organisations such as Citizens Advice.
If a conflict of interest between an advice worker and a case has been identified after initial advice has been given, the case will be re-allocated by the Advice and Welfare Manager to another advice worker. We will not inform either party the reason for the reallocation or that there is a potential conflict of interest but they may make an inference that this has happened.
If further students approach us about the same issue wherever possible we will ensure that a different advisor sees any subsequent case.
Where two advisers have seen different parties about the same issue they will then refrain from discussing the case with each other or accessing the case notes for the party they are not advising, and will do their best to ensure that conflicting students do not attend the Advice Centre at the same time.
If a number of students need representation at a university hearing and there are not enough advice workers available to represent each student, with consent from the students we may offer representation by other appropriate uea(su) staff members from outside advice(su) at the meeting.
The Advice and Welfare Manager delivers case supervision for all advice workers providing advice and guidance in their work in both written and verbal form. Where discussions are needed regarding a case that involves a potential conflict of interest these will take place away from other staff members.
We will ensure that casework is reviewed at least fortnightly by the Advice Workers and that there is a periodic review by the Advice and Welfare Manager or Head of Advice, Community and Welfare following up any areas of uncertainty, to ensure that the highest standard of advice has been provided.
advice(su)’s case management system has an audit tool with the ability to track all users activity on cases. Any accessing of cases where a potential conflict of interest has been identified without authorisation of an appropriate manager will be dealt with through uea(su)’s staff disciplinary process.
There are times when the Advice and Welfare Manager acts as one of the advisors in a case where there is a potential conflict of interest. In these cases, the Head of Advice, Community and Welfare will be informed and take on the case supervision and related administrative tasks for all advice workers involved in such cases.
If a student who has been supported by advice(su) decides to engage the services of a Lawyer on the same issue, advice(su) will withdraw aspects of their service. The decision to withdraw services will be made by the Advice and Welfare Manager and Head of Service as appropriate in conjunction with the relevant advice worker.
All users of advice(su) will be informed of this policy at time of booking their initial appointment and prior to initial advice being given.