Wales Loneliness strategy
In January 2019 BACP submitted a response to the Welsh government’s consultation about how it should work to address loneliness and social isolation throughout Wales. Included in the submission is an account from BACP member Janet Jones:
“I set up and ran a counselling service for Age Concern Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan (now Age Connect) between November 2001 and December 2011, when the service closed as the charity was unable to secure further funding. I have been told that seven years on they still receive calls from people wanting to access counselling.
"The oldest client was 93 years old. We worked with a lady who had little verbal communication following a stroke, a gentleman with Parkinson's disease and people in the early stages of dementia, all either experiencing, or at enormous risk of loneliness and social isolation. Referrals came from service users themselves, GPs, social workers and other Age Concern projects.”
Focusing on the relationship between common mental health problems as both causes and effects of loneliness, we urge the government to recognise the importance of providing a choice of treatments (including counselling) as part of its wider strategy to tackle loneliness.
In December 2018, as part of an event showcasing the value of counselling, we presented key messages form the older people strategy to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including commissioners from Clinical Commissioning Groups. Manchester is an ‘age-friendly’ city and has an aspiration to be the best place in the UK to grow older.
During the meeting, we shared a short video of BACP member Peter Walters talking about his work with older clients and reflecting on being an older practitioner working for the Counselling and Family Centre in Altrincham.
Most people aged over 65 have two or more long-term conditions. These include diabetes, COPD and cardiovascular disease - conditions that can be treated and managed, but not cured. Research evidence consistently demonstrates that people with long-term conditions are two to three times more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.
A new guide Living Well With Long Term Conditions from the charity Independent Age provides a wide range of advice on the management of long-term conditions, including the importance of recognising and acting upon the mental health impact of living with physical illness.
Read our news article - New guide to help older people live with long-term illnesses
Innovation in dementia care
At the 13th UK Dementia Congress held in Brighton in November, BACP member Danuta Lipinska was awarded of the Outstanding Innovation In Dementia Care award for her work in co-developing and delivering dementia awareness training to staff in the East of England Co-op Funeral Services.
Danuta will shortly be recording audio content for the BACP online CPD hub, sharing her experience and insights into work with older adults living with dementia and coping with bereavement.
Read our news article - BACP member wins award for dementia-friendly training
BACP members leading the way
Our Volunteers’ Day in Birmingham brought together four of our Older People Expert Reference Group (OPERG) who attended a workshop on the progress of the older people strategy to date. They identified key areas and challenges in making counselling more accessible to older adults.
Following the meeting, Erin Stevens published a blog on her website sharing key themes on work with older adults and emphasising the value of therapy irrespective of age.
Age discrimination in mental health
A new report from The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Suffering in silence: age inequality in older people’s mental health care highlights inequalities in the treatment of mental health problems in older adults. It calls on UK governments to do more to recognise the specific needs of older people.
The report quotes research indicating that GPs are less likely to refer older people to talking therapies, despite evidence from IAPT in England that recovery rates for people aged 65 and over are better than average.
Read our news article - Calls for more support for older people’s mental health
Older people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities can face additional barriers and difficulties to having their mental health needs recognised and treated. In her recent article published in Therapy Today Helen George reflects upon how the experiences of African-Caribbean people of the ‘Windrush generation’ compromises their later-life wellbeing and sets a challenge for the counselling professions that must be met. Helen is a member of our Older People Expert Reference Group.
International Day of Older Persons
Monday 1 October marked the United Nations (UN) International Day of Older Persons, focusing on the human rights of older people.
We highlighted how the UN’s aspiration to ‘leave no-one behind’ presents particular challenges when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of older people. A BACP survey shows that the likelihood of being referred to a talking therapy reduces with age despite indications that older people have better outcomes when they do receive counselling.
Perceptions of the value of counselling also appeared to decrease with age. While fewer than a third of those aged 55-64 agreed that ‘people of my generation know how to manage without counselling’, this increased to over half of those aged 75 and older.
Future of social care
As frustration grows at the further delays in the publication of the government’s green paper on the future of social care in England, we've been taking a keen interest in the growing momentum for radical action to address the care needs of the ageing population.
At this month's Age UK conference, amidst calls for greater leadership, investment and integration between health and social care services, Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Care, assured delegates that the green paper will be published ‘in the Autumn’. She indicated that publication is likely to coincide with the publication of the NHS 10-year spending plan (see our response to the consultation on mental health priorities below). In response to a question from the conference floor, Ms Dinenage confirmed that ‘wellbeing is a critical part of social care’.
The full extent of the costs of meeting the social care needs of an ageing population have been set out in a new report. A Taxing Question: How to pay for free personal care, published by Independent Age, provides comparative costs of funding care and calls for political parties to accept the social justice arguments for free personal care and the tax increases required to adequately deliver good quality care to all who need it.
NHS 10-Year Plan
We've responded to NHS England’s call to identify priority areas in the 10-year plan for mental health spending. We've called for a full choice of evidence-based talking therapies to be offered to all who need them and that particular priority should be given to older adults whose mental health needs are overlooked, under-diagnosed and under-treated.
Loneliness Strategy consultation
In July we responded to a call for evidence on approaches to a Loneliness Strategy for England. We expressed alarm that despite AGE UK estimates of 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK, age was not identified in the consultation document as a specific risk factor for loneliness. Our submission highlighted the links between loneliness and common mental health problems, the need to address psychological barriers to engagement and the role that counselling can play in supporting people to overcome loneliness.
We're pleased to have been able to include in our response examples of innovative practice from BACP members working with older adults. You can find full details of the consultation on the government website.
In a recent blog for Independent Age's Ageism Plus campaign, our older people lead Jeremy Bacon says ageing doesn’t have to mean sadness, loneliness and decline and there is no upper age limit to benefiting from counselling. In Mental health – a casualty of ageism, he says "Ageism is the foundation of barriers that keep the common mental health problems of older people hidden and untreated".
As well as mental health, the Ageism Plus campaign looks at ageism from many perspectives, such as ageism and work, ageism and sexism, and ageism and disability. The campaign aims to "showcase diversity, call out prejudice and find ways of eliminating discrimination for good".