Education

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Counselling for teachers costs us €8,000 a week

MARK O'REGAN

Published 09/03/2014|02:30

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Counselling for teachers costs us €8,000 a week. Picture posed. Thinkstock

STRESSED-out teachers are availing of round-the-clock counselling as part of a special scheme that is costing taxpayers more than €8,000 a week.

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The 24/7 scheme provides one-to-one counselling and advice and is available 365 days a year. A Department of Education spokesman confirmed the service is open to all teaching staff in primary and second-level schools.

It has also emerged a total of 7,820 teachers have sought help from the scheme since it was introduced in 2006.

An individual teacher can avail of up to four counselling sessions for a particular emotional or stress-related problem.

The scheme is described as an "Employee Assistance Service" and the annual uptake is estimated to be 2 per cent of the teaching workforce.

It is also available to immediate family members such as spouses and children.

The department said teaching staff had sought professional advice for "issues such as health, relationships, bereavement, stress, conflict, critical incident and trauma".

A department source also confirmed that, despite the pressure for cutbacks in the education sector, there are no plans to abolish this service.

A company called Carecall Wellbeing can be confidentially called on by teachers in nursery, primary, post-primary and special schools.

Last year, the company was paid a fee of €395,184 by the Department of Education.

A number of studies have been carried out into the underlying causes of teacher stress in Ireland.

One study by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (Asti) found 11 per cent of all retiring staff do so on the grounds of ill-health.

Union sources also report that increasing demands from parents – particularly in relation to exam results – have intensified as the recession deepens and job opportunities become more limited.

Asti said: "Research shows teachers have a higher risk of work-related stress, and stress-related illnesses than other professions."

A spokesman for the Irish National Teachers' Organisation added: "Any scheme which assists to reduce burnout and breakdown pays dividends to the education system, given the high cost of educating teachers."

Sunday Independent

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