Ayrshire College is urging the Scottish Government to save “vital” counselling jobs that aid their “most vulnerable students".

The college has joined 21 Scottish institutions that have written to the government to protect 80 mental health counsellor jobs that were created in 2018.

Funding for the positions is set to run out in July 2023 and colleges across the country are asking for clarification on whether the scheme will continue and are calling on the government to extend the grant.

An Ayrshire College spokesperson said: “The funding that has been available to provide counselling services for students has been essential to offer support to our most vulnerable students.

“Ayrshire College is fully supportive of the action taken by the college sector to maintain funding for vital counselling services beyond the current academic year.”

In their letter to the Scottish Government, Scottish college principals highlighted the importance of counsellors to their students – especially in the current economic climate where many people are struggling due to the cost-of-living crisis.

A November 2022 study by the Mental Health Foundation showed that 54 per cent of college students who participated had moderate, moderately severe, or severe symptoms of depression.

The letter also explains that the services – while not being a replacement for the NHS – help to relieve some of the strain they face.

Co-chair of the College Counselling Network Scotland, Allie Scott, said: “The early interventions and triage support which mental health counsellors offer has helped to keep demand away from the NHS.

“The lack of commitment to continued funding is extremely worrying.

“If the service isn’t funded for the future, and the existing counselling workforce move on to other opportunities, it will be very difficult to reconstruct down the line if funding ever did become available.”

Additionally, the Scottish Government pledged £20 million but so far has only spent £14.5 million, leaving questions surrounding what will happen to the remaining £5.5 million.

The action has been coordinated through representative organisation Colleges Scotland.