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Support colleagues fighting back in FE!

College and university staff receive support, information and counselling from new charity

2 November 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

A new UK-wide charity for the further, higher and adult education workforce is launched today by the Teacher Support Network in partnership with the University and College Union (UCU).

College and University Support Network (CUSN) offers a range of free services including round-the-clock telephone counselling, a website of fact sheets, online coaching, money advice and needs-based grants and loans. College and University Support Network (CUSN)College and University Support Network (CUSN)

CUSN builds upon the successful work of Teacher Support Network, a charity which has been providing confidential and independent telephone support to school teachers since 1999 and now reaches more than 21,600 teachers a month.

Prior to the launch of CUSN, lecturers could access support through Teacher Support Network's telephone and online services thanks to a partnership with NATFHE (one of UCU's two predecessor unions).

Key issues raised with Teacher Support Network by college and university staff during June to September included continuing professional development, harassment and bullying, personal relationships and physical health.

The merger of NATFHE and AUT to become UCU provided a unique opportunity to deliver more specific services.

Patrick Nash, Chief Executive of CUSN, said: 'CUSN's innovative partnership with UCU means the charity can really meet the needs of the FE/HE 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, particularly legal and pay and conditions issues, individuals are encouraged to seek further support from their union.'

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

'UCU can help by providing specialised employment advice, and representation if need be, and by taking up the root causes of many problems, such as heavy workloads, inadequate support or discrimination.

'UCU hopes that the partnership will strengthen our mutual efforts for high quality working environments and fulfilling working lives.'

Speaking at the launch of CUSN on 2 November Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU will say: 'Unions are sometimes accused of being slow to respond to change. Nothing is further from the truth in this case.

'On 29 November 2005, anticipating the massive vote for the AUT/NATFHE merger announced the following day, NATFHE and AUT officials met Teacher Support Network. Today - less than a year later - UCU is delighted to partner the launch of this revolutionary dedicated service for the whole of adult, further and higher education.

'Trade unions improve people's working lives through campaigning, building strong workplace organisation, through representation, bargaining and lobbying. You might wonder therefore why on earth we're involved in this initiative. Well we have our strengths and we have our limits.

'When people are so distressed that they can't begin to analyse what's happening, let alone how to tackle it, when someone is facing serious illness affecting their work, when panic sets in late at night - that's just where CUSN's 24/7 confidential telephone helpline or CUSN's online support, and CUSN's fully trained counsellors who understand education come in.

'And the huge range of fact sheets available on the CUSN web site provide answers on a range of issues and pointers to further back-up including UCU's specialised employment and education support.

'The advantage for the individual is that whoever they turn to first the other will be there if needed. And CUSN reinforces what we offer as a union. That is the essence of this partnership.

'The personalised support offered through CUSN helps people think through how to address a problem and is particularly useful when people are stressed out. UCU can help by providing specialized employment advice and representation if need be and by taking up the root causes of many problems, such as heavy workloads, inadequate support, or discrimination.'

'The UCU higher education poll released today illustrates the kind of stresses and strains faced by lecturers. In the new universities and colleges NATFHE negotiated many agreements setting limits on workloads and providing transparent opportunities for career advance. Having a framework in which to exercise professional control is crucial for staff and UCU has much still to do.

'UCU hopes that the new partnership launched today with CUSN will strengthen our mutual efforts for high quality working environments and fulfilling working lives for staff - and our raison d'etre - high quality education for all our students.'

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