Charity will help staff to juggle life

November 2, 2006

Service will offer 24/7 advice on finance, stress and love, writes Anthea Lipsett.

"Life coaching" to help busy lecturers manage their money, balance their work and social lives - and even improve their love lives - is being offered as part of a new dedicated charity for university and college staff.

The College and University Support Network, launched this week, will offer a free round-the-clock telephone counselling service for lecturers. It also has a website offering one-to-one online life coaching and information on employment rights.

As The Times Higher revealed in June, the CUSN was developed by the schools-focused Teacher Support Network after it started receiving calls from higher education staff primarily concerned with bullying and stress.

The CUSN will be jointly run with the University and College Union. It will cover all aspects of wellbeing for staff in universities and colleges, as well as their families, including careers, training, harassment and bullying, health and even relationships.

Under the life-coaching service, staff sign up to a website where they will be paired with a coach who, the CUSN says, "will provide support in any area you wish to focus upon".

Patrick Nash, chief executive of the CUSN, said: "The CUSN's innovative partnership with the UCU means the charity can really meet the needs of the further and higher education workforce in tackling issues such as stress, workload and difficult relationships.

"Our professionally accredited counsellors and coaches work with individuals to devise practical solutions to their concerns. In many cases, individuals are encouraged to seek further support from their union."

Paul Mackney and Sally Hunt, UCU joint general secretaries, said: "The personalised support offered through the CUSN helps people think through how to address a problem and is particularly useful when people are stressed out."

The UCU will handle legal employment advice and represent staff where necessary.

Roger Kline, who is responsible for employment rights at the UCU, said the charity would "neatly complement the more public face of the union in taking up issues of bullying and stress".

According to a survey carried out by the new charity, university and college staff want more online information, fact sheets and self-help guides. A third of the 159 people surveyed wanted telephone counselling and 20 per cent wanted financial advice.

Just under three quarters said bureaucracy had the biggest negative impact on their wellbeing, followed by 66 per cent who cited excessive workload and 45 per cent who cited job insecurity.

anthea.lipsett@thes.co.uk  

Details: www.cusn.info

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