Arts Council offers therapy to its stressed-out staff

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The Independent Online
DEPRESSED? Frustrated? Unsure of your sexual identity? Perhaps you work for the Arts Council.

Help is at hand for the bureaucrats who find spending pounds 400m a year on the UK's theatres, operas and concert halls too stressful and sexually confusing. The Arts Council is urging staff to use a confidential counselling service, for advice on drugs, alcohol and sexual problems, as well as problems caused by redundancy - paid for out of that pounds 400m.

The advice has been approved by the council's chairman, Gerry Robinson, who is also chairman of Granada plc. It also has the blessing of the council itself, whose members include the Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull and the pianist Joanna MacGregor.

Mr Robinson has announced that he wants to reduce the staff from 320 to 150. The ensuing stress, combined presumably with the stress of preparing to announce the annual round of grants, which will disappoint and infuriate many arts organisations, has apparently left them on the edge.

One former Arts Council member said yesterday: "It's absolutely astounding that taxpayers' money is being used for this. I know that working in the arts is increasingly stressful. But in my day at the council, if you had a problem, you went to the secretary-general and discussed it. Now you have to go to a private counsellor or therapist."

A letter to every member of staff from the council's human resources department tells them that a company called Core Care, a professional counselling organisation, can help them with "problems related to work or career, personal or emotional, financial or legal, marital or family, alcohol or drugs, sexual or stress".

The company's mini-brochure, headed Core Care: confidential counselling working on behalf of the Arts Council of England, talks of dealing with workers who may be "distracted or preoccupied; operate at a lower performance level than usual ... show poor attendance or timekeeping".

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