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Teacher advice service faces crisis

Lifeline for those in need of financial and emotional support needs pound;40k to stay afloat

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Lifeline for those in need of financial and emotional support needs pound;40k to stay afloat

An organisation that helps teachers to deal with emotional and financial problems is appealing to them for help in keeping its "vital" service running.

Teacher Support Cymru (TSC) provides teachers in Wales with free, confidential and bilingual services, including a 24-hour helpline and website, at a cost of pound;120,000 a year.

Last year, the number of people seeking support increased by more than 260 per cent.

But TSC's future was thrown into doubt last March when the Assembly government withdrew its annual pound;80,000 funding.

Although its parent body in England, the Teacher Support Network, stepped in to subsidise the shortfall, the funding arrangement will be reviewed annually, leading to speculation about its long-term future.

Now, TSC is turning to the very teachers it helps to ask for their support to keep services going.

Development manager Sandra Taylor told TES Cymru the surge in demand proves there is a "clear and vital" need for the service.

"We are the only organisation offering independent support for teachers in Wales," Ms Taylor said.

"We offer coaching, counselling, information, money advice and financial support to all teachers in Wales, regardless of the stage of their career or which union they are in. In the current economic climate, the need for our service has grown."

Currently, most of TSC's enquiries from teachers are about work and career issues, closely followed by money and finance.

Trained counsellors with educational expertise offer support to callers or refer them to other agencies if further help is required.

Specialist financial advisers are also available and, in extreme circumstances, teachers could be eligible to apply for a hardship grant.

Although teaching unions in Wales contribute the remaining pound;40,000 of TSC's annual running costs, they say they are unable to provide any more. Ms Taylor hopes to bridge the gap with donations from teachers.

She said: "If only 5 per cent of the 38,000 registered teachers in Wales donated pound;5 a month to TSC, the service would be paid for."

She is also appealing for serving and retired teachers to leave legacies to TSC in their wills, a generous source of funding in the past.

Ms Taylor is also setting up a friends group to recruit 30 volunteers from across Wales by August to raise awareness of TSC.

CALL CENTRE: Surge in demand

Teacher Support Cymru has seen a 266 per cent increase in the number of contacts (calls, emails and requests for factsheets) it receives from teachers, up from 1,534 in 2009 to 4,090 in 2010.

Last year, most contacts were issues to do with work and career (40 per cent), followed by money and finance (35 per cent), then personal, family and relationship (8 per cent) and health and fitness issues (4.5 per cent).

IN NEED: I just `cracked'

Ffion*, a primary teacher from south Wales, contacted Teacher Support Cymru after taking five months' sick leave from stress.

She said: "I was under enormous pressure from a school amalgamation, in which I was moved into a new key stage and the inspection which followed did not go well.

"I was also trying to run a home and look after my elderly parents. Inevitably, I cracked."

Over six sessions with a TSC counsellor, Ffion was encouraged to use her sick leave to relax and spend more time on herself, and to put things in perspective.

She said: "A year on, I have halved my medication, have a new attitude towards my work. I have already recommended the service to colleagues."

*Not her real name.

Original headline: Teacher advice service faces crisis of its own

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