Sunday 22 October 2017

Cutbacks hit counselling service for children

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

PUPILS who are victims of cyber-bullying may have no one to turn to in school to help them deal with the problem, a new survey has found.

Cutbacks implemented in September mean that schools cannot offer the same one-to-one counselling service to students in distress.

The huge loss to pupils is highlighted in a new survey by the second-level school-management organisation, the Joint Managerial Body (JMB).

The career-guidance teacher is also trained to act as counsellor to vulnerable pupils and the need for one-to-one interventions is regarded as critical.

A guidance counsellor could devote many hours to guiding individual pupils through difficult periods and helping them to avoid a crisis.

But guidance and counselling services now have to be provided out of a school's general allocation of teaching hours.

One school in the JMB survey reported that last year, its counsellor offered one-to-one support to 42 students, who were involved in weekly sessions, over six to eight weeks, dealing with issues such as anger management. But now the school has said that it can only deal with "emergency cases".

JMB general secretary Ferdia Kelly said the whole point of counselling was to avoid emergency situations. The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) has also warned of the impact of cuts on the service offered by its members.

It said that on a daily basis, guidance counsellors assisted students who were victims of various forms of bullying, including cyber-bullying.

In addition to assisting students who were the victims of bullying, the guidance counsellor also plays an important role in dealing with the perpetrators of the bullying behaviour.

An IGC spokesperson said students should not to respond to bullying messages or texts, should keep a record of the incident and report the matter to their parents at home and to their guidance counsellor/class tutor/year head in school as soon as possible.

Irish Independent

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