Advice line for stressed staff

Help is at hand for stressed staff working in further education, thanks to a charity being set up to give them advice and support.

Telephone counselling, financial advice and emotional support as well as professional guidance will be available.

In addition to telephone and online services, it will also produce written materials for staff who need confidential help.

The charity is being set up by the Teacher Support Network, well-known in schools, where it operates with the backing of the National Union of Teachers.

The network grew out of the Teachers' Benevolent Fund and already provides help for college staff. It operates in England, Scotland and Wales - offering support to individuals, regardless of whether or not they belong to a union.

The new charity, which will have its own identity but fall under the TSN's umbrella, will offer a specialist service for post-16 education, including universities.

Work by Lifelong Learning UK - the sector skills council for post-16 education -has shown that one of lecturers' main concerns is the level confusion about how best to deal with school-age children, who now attend most colleges part-time under the "increased flexibility" programme.

LLUK also operates a support hotline for post-16 staff.

The new charity - to be known as the College and University Support Network - is a joint initiative between TSN and the new University and College Union.

It is expected to be operational in November, when there will be a launch attended by Bill Rammell, the further and higher education minister, and Lord Hunt, a minister at the Department of Work and Pensions.

A spokesman for TSN said: "CUSN will complement the work of the union by offering information, practical and emotional support, telephone counselling, online coaching, financial assistance, money advice, factsheets, guides and news."

The service, which will rely on voluntary donations, will be available to the families of staff and will be run out of TSN's contact centre near Cardiff.

It will be one of the first major developments involving the UCU since its creation this year from Natfhe and AUT merger.

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