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Teachers therapy saves cash

- TIM WILLIAMS EDUCATION REPORTER

A COUNSELLIN­G service for SA’s public school teachers is saving more than three times as much money as is spent on it, by improving productivi­ty and reducing absenteeis­m.

Over the past two years, almost 2000 teachers completed more than 5000 counsellin­g sessions for workplace or personal issues.

A study by Flinders and Carnegie Mellon universiti­es, the first of its type for a largescale Australian “employee assistance program”, found the benefits last year alone of $1.44 million far outstrippe­d the $432,000 cost of the service.

As well as improving teachers’ mental health, the Education Department service contribute­d to them doing an extra 18,000 hours of productive work.

Study author Donald Shepard, pictured, who recently served as chair of applied public policy across the two unis, said: “Most large organisati­ons, both in the US and Australia, have EAP programs, so this research can be applied and will be of interest to many internatio­nal stakeholde­rs.”

The study concluded that the department should continue the counsellin­g scheme because of its “proven benefit”.

The rate of take-up by teachers in the regions was lower than in Adelaide, prompting the researcher­s to call for more promotion of the service in country areas.

The counsellin­g sessions are available in person or by phone. In-person sessions were more popular but satisfacti­on ratings for phone counsellin­g were higher. The study is published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioura­l Health.

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