Delivering a sustainable staff counselling service

How did the Staff Counselling Service pilot go? 

This launched in Michaelmas Term 2022 as a pilot to assess demand and the feasibility of offering the service in-house. Run by the Occupational Health team, staff were able to self-refer for up to six free sessions with a University counsellor. Since its launch, 923 appointments have been delivered and 113 members of staff have completed the full six sessions. 

Whilst feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, it became apparent that we couldn’t meet staff need with the existing provision. The service was quickly overcome by demand, having to pause several times to process applications and reduce waiting times. To ensure staff have timely access to counselling services, we have taken the decision to close the pilot in September (when all booked sessions will have completed) and introduce an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). 

What are the benefits of an EAP?

An EAP ensures we can provide counselling services to whoever needs it, at any given time.

Our provider, Health Assured, offer a telephone helpline that is available 24/7, 365 days a year. The helpline can be used to arrange counselling, provide financial and legal advice, legal information and family and childcare support. Six sessions of counselling are available, per issue, per year.

Health Assured offer a ‘My Healthy Advantage’ app to all employees, which provides proactive wellbeing tools including health trackers, mini health checks, mood trackers, healthy eating recipes and many other features. There are significant accessibility benefits including sign language counsellors, a language line for those whose first language is not English, text relay and other options. 

Why Health Assured? 

Health Assured is the UK’s leading wellbeing provider and already work with some departments and colleges. Our contract is scalable too, should we wish to expand the provision to other colleges or to include overseas staff. Whilst the service is confidential, we also gain access to in-depth, anonymised data enabling us to cater more specifically to staff need.

What’s next?

Over the next year, we’ll evaluate the uptake of these services and plan for the long-term provision of counselling services. The Wellbeing Programme Team is also planning an events series for the next 12 months to continue to support staff in all domains of wellbeing.

For more information about Health Assured, including how to access the service, and to download the My Healthy Advantage app, visit the Thriving at Oxford website.