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Cutbacks reduce one-to-one guidance counselling by 50% - study

A study commissioned by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors found cutbacks have significantly reduced the time available for one-to-one student counselling.

Image: Lisa F. Young via Shutterstock

CUTBACKS TO SCHOOL counselling services have led to a 51.4 per cent reduction in the amount of time available for one-to-one meetings, a study by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) has claimed.

The IGC has expressed concern there might be further reductions in service, which could leave young people at “further risk”.

The independent national study among guidance counsellors in second level schools, carried out by Sheelagh Beatty (LifeCare Psychological Services), found that last year’s cutbacks by the Department of Education and Skills led to a 51.4 per cent reduction in the time available for one-to-one student counselling and a 21 per cent reduction in the time allocated to guidance and counselling services.

The sample involved 240 schools, employing a total of 378 qualified guidance counselling staff. More than 90 per cent of participating schools were voluntary secondary schools (45 per cent), vocational schools/community colleges (28 per cent) or community/comprehensive schools (18 per cent). The study was carried out in two phases: firstly in May 2012 prior to the cuts and again in October/November 2012 when the cuts took effect.

According to the study, the cutbacks have forced school management to divert guidance counsellors away from one-to-one engagements with students and to focus instead on classroom-based duties, including guidance and subject teaching. It found the amount of time guidance counsellors are spending on classroom-based activity has increased by 19.8 per cent.

“These findings reflect very badly on our priorities at a time of greatest need among young people we are seeing the greatest reduction in counselling services,” said President of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Gerry Flynn.

“Cutting one-to-one counselling service in half in the current environment where we are every day witnessing the increasing challenges facing young people such as bullying and other serious personal crisis is unconscionable. It’s hard to see how it can achieve anything other than leave more young people exposed to risk.

“Guidance counsellors can identify young people who may be vulnerable and intervene with professional advice and support before matters escalate and require the input of more resource hungry state agencies,” he added.

Flynn said the IGC would like to work with the Department of Education, parents and other agencies to determine a way to restore the “much needed counselling services at the coal face” by utilising the existing national network of guidance counsellors.

Column: Why we need career guidance counsellors – and why all the stereotypes are wrong

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