Bullied staff given counselling

August 28, 1998

Free counselling by clinical psychologists is being offered to staff at Anglia Polytechnic University, in the wake of a survey that found bullying and intimidation are a serious problem at the institution.

The university has enlisted the services of First Assist, a counselling and legal advice service, to offer its staff access to a free, 24-hour helpline covering issues such as "stress, anxiety and employment" worries.

The confidential service offers staff free face-to-face sessions with "counsellors, clinical psychologists and legal consultants".

The service is launched amid a number of allegations of bullying at Anglia and a campaign by trade union Unison to highlight and eradicate bullying at the institution.

A survey by Unison, published by the university this month, found that 93 per cent of support staff responding to their questionnaire "thought that bullying was a problem at APU".

The union said: "Unison is determined to have bullying identified as a problem at APU and to see that it is eradicated from the workplace.

"Unison believes that bullying at work is unacceptable behaviour. We all have the right to be treated with dignity and respect."

Unison questioned all 180 of its members across all four APU campuses and said that "a fair proportion" responded.

The survey found that 61 per cent of respondents said that they had been bullied at APU, while 24 per cent said that they were facing problems with bullying.

More than a third said the bullies were usually senior managers, and 42 per cent said it took the form of intimidation.

Others identified "excessive criticism" and the removal of responsibility, while 31 per cent reported "humiliation".

Unison said that many workers were scared to report the bullying and that inadequate training for managers was exacerbating the problem.

But union representative Les Fountain said: "We are fortunate enough to be able to hold open and frank talks with management on this and any other subject. These talks are continuing through the equal opportunities committee which will meet again in October."

Anglia's director of marketing, Roy Newson, said: "This is Unison's survey, and it would not be appropriate for the university to make any comment." Mr Newson also declined to comment on the new counselling service.

Sandra Ridley, counselling services manager of First Assist, said that the programme with APU was the only one the company did with a university. It also had deals with "several" colleges.

She said there had been a clear growth in demand for such services in education in the past three years, but that many institutions could not afford to pay.

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