Mandarins have been criticized for spending almost £500,000 on public service subscriptions to ‘mindfulness’ apps which offer users bedtime stories read by celebrities.
The Telegraph can reveal that the public is paying for civil servants to be put to sleep by stars such as Dame Mary Berry, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba.
The wellness programs, which cost around £10 a month, also come equipped with hundreds of guided meditations, including ones on ‘creating a safe space’, ‘being an ally’ and ‘easing bedtime anxiety’.
Since 2020, six departments have spent £490,000 on employee access to mindfulness apps, which are believed to help improve mental health, according to an analysis of government contracts.
On Saturday, MPs and campaigners criticized public spending on “adult bedtime stories” at a time when the country braces for Jeremy Hunt’s tax hikes.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has spent £266,100 to give staff access to an app founded by a Bristol-born Buddhist monk since 2020.
Subscriptions to the Headspace App, which offers ‘sleep casts’ called ‘Midnight Laundromat’ and ‘Vineyard Sunset’, have also been purchased by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Digital, of Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).
Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have spent £45,124 this year on a subscription to a Silicon Valley start-up famous for its collaborations with celebrities.
CALM customers can fall asleep to Dame Mary, who reads a bedtime story about a tea party in which she tells listeners to “snuggle up under your covers and…feel the cares of the day melt away”.
The company’s Head of Sleep Stories, Chris Advansun, previously said the feature “gives adults permission…to return to what has been one of the most uplifting and calming experiences they’ve had.” when they were children.”
‘No relief for working households that civil servants are in a zen state’
Cabinet Office officials have spent £102,456 on a wellness app to provide staff with mindfulness and meditation sessions, as well as a personal diary to “enable individuals to track their own thoughts and feelings”.
The 2020 contract has been awarded to Unmind, a London-based “cultural change platform” that helps “empower employees to lead more fulfilling lives”.
Criticizing the spending, MP David Jones said the government’s duty of care ‘does not extend to spending £500,000 of taxpayers’ money on what amounts to little more than adult bedtime stories’ .
Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said: “I don’t see why the employer should pay for these services. It is up to everyone to pay for themselves. »
John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: “It will not relieve working households that civil servants are in a zen state while precious resources are wasted.
“Mandarins need to ask themselves if this is really an appropriate use of funds.”
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to delivering the best value for money, reducing waste and inefficiency and ensuring that every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent in the best way possible.
“As a responsible employer, we continue to improve our approach to health and well-being to help employees perform at their best.”