Engaging with members

Norfolk and Waveney Talking Therapies Collective

Alongside Alex Church (MBACP), senior programme manager and consultant for integrated access at the Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, we've been part of a collective of both small and larger counselling services in the area to look at taking on additional funded counselling work to help with NHS waiting lists. The consortium is in its early stages but aims to replicate the model of working that continues to be successful and sustainable in Bradford, where Alex previously worked.

TAC Access

We've been working closely with a new service, TAC Access (Team around the Client) which offers a platform targeting schools and colleges, alongside commissioners in local authorities and health care settings, to directly book qualified and competent children and young people counsellors to work in a range of education settings with children and young people who they serve.

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The beauty of the platform is that a counsellor can set their own rates of pay and schools and colleges can be assured that practitioners have the right qualifications to work with their children, with a vetting process ensuring they are safe and competent to practice with this age group.

Registration is free for members to sign up to before September, after then there is a monthly charge with opt out arrangements at any point.

Engaging with elected representatives and decision makers

Making the case for counselling investment in London

In January, we brought together the newly appointed Minister for Mental Health, Gillian Keegan MP, and the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Rosena Allin Khan MP, with health and local government leaders at a dedicated online event to call on them to invest in counselling and psychotherapy to help tackle the chronic, wide-ranging, and long-lasting mental health issues of COVID-19.

Hosted by Sir Norman Lamb, and held in partnership with Mind in London, the event included questions asked by many BACP members from across Greater London. We made the case that our highly-skilled and qualified members are ready now to support communities in the capital, and across the UK, in their recovery from the pandemic.

We're in the process of building on these discussions, working with Mind in London to ensure Government, the Mayor’s Office and the newly established Integrated Care Systems in London are utilising the counselling workforce across the capital.

Spring Budget Statement

Following the announcement of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest measures to tackle the cost of living crisis, we called for more investment in counselling and psychotherapy to support people with financial worries. While the Chancellor introduced measures such as personal tax savings, a reduction to fuel duty and support for small businesses, our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Martin Bell argued that further measures are needed.

“We’d like to have seen the Chancellor provide additional investment in mental health services today," Martin said, “including counselling and psychotherapy, to support those with financial worries as part of a more holistic response.”

The Policy Team will be closely following the development of the Chancellor’s measures and the effects they will have on both our members and the wider profession.

BACP publishes NI Assembly Manifesto

In March, in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Counselling Forum we completed our Manifesto ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections. This has been shared with all six main parties with the hope to influence their own manifestos.

Our big focus for this year is to ensure that the growing demand for counselling support, exacerbated by the pandemic, is urgently addressed with investment in appropriate and accessible provision across Northern Ireland.

We are asking all parties to support the following five priorities:

  1. To secure the £1.2b shortfall in the Mental Health Strategy’s Funding Plan and commit to ensuring this will enable appropriate and accessible counselling provision across Northern Ireland to address longstanding gaps in support which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
  2. To ensure a holistic mental health workforce strategy is put in place urgently which fully deploys the underutilised counselling and psychotherapy workforce in Northern Ireland.
  3. To enhance the role of counselling and psychotherapy within the Health and Social Care workforce including free at the point of need counselling and psychotherapy available to all through their GP.
  4. To commit to long term funding of the Healthy Happy Minds therapeutic and counselling service beyond the existing pilot, ensuring all primary aged children in Northern Ireland have access to qualified, specialist children and young people counselling practitioners as part of that offer.
  5. To commit to improving access to high quality and culturally sensitive services to people from marginalised community backgrounds and those at greatest risk of psychological distress and mental ill health.

Read our NI Elections 2022 manifesto (pdf 0.1MB)

NI Election Campaign

We’ve launched a campaign ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections which enables members to send a template email to all their prospective candidates in their constituency, asking them to support the five pledges in our manifesto. Members can also personalise the letter with their own reflections on counselling and psychotherapy provision in Northern Ireland. Since launching on 8 April, 110 members (5% of our membership in NI), have taken action. You can find out more on our campaign webpage.

Opportunities for counselling in primary care in Scotland

We're calling on the Scottish Government to ensure counselling is part of new mental health support being made available through GP surgeries, expected to receive up to £40m per annum by 2024-25. Under this model enhanced support will be provided through new multi-disciplinary teams supporting local GP surgeries across Scotland.

We welcome this announcement, which reflects a call we made in our 2021 Scottish Manifesto for investment in primary care to improve access to counselling and other mental health support across Scotland’s communities. We're making the case to Scottish Government and influential partners in Scotland that counsellors and psychotherapists need to be part of this offer, reflecting the important life-changing work they're doing on the front line of the mental health pandemic in Scotland.

CYP work across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

We continue to work with government officials across all three nations. In Northern Ireland we assisted the Education Department in guidance around professional standards and supervision ratios for the Healthy Minds primary school pilot.

In Wales we've been part of an advisory group to offer guidance on the Cardiff University school and community counselling review process, with a final report published on 17 March. The report offered a series of recommendations on how to maximise current provision alongside rolling the statutory funded counselling provision out to primary aged children.

In Scotland, we were delighted to secure keynote Government officials to speak about the school counselling programme at the March ‘Staying Connected’ event and have built a good working relationship with Kate Smith at Tayside University, alongside the counselling lead for the local authority area, to carry out a pilot evaluation of school counselling in 2022-2023, supported by our research team. You can watch the recordings from the event until 15 June.

Refugee support

In our policy work we've been calling for improved access to culturally sensitive and trauma informed psychological therapy for refugees and asylum seekers across the UK. In response to an approach from the Afghan and Central Asia Association, we provided a briefing detailing the importance of psychological support to refugees for the Association in support of its engagement with the minister for Afghan resettlement.

Evidence from reports published by The Refugee Council and Barnardo’s have been included in our response to the Northern Ireland government’s consultation on the integration of refugees and asylum-seekers.

In order to keep the issue of culturally sensitive and trauma focused support for refugees on the political agenda, we've been working with the office of Munira Wilson MP in order to generate specific and relevant parliamentary questions (PQs) and put them forward to the Minister for Refugees. We've had two PQs asked on our behalf this year; a first question on support for Afghan refugees was answered in the House of Commons in February by the Minister for Afghan Resettlement, Victoria Atkins, and a second question including support for Ukrainian refugees was answered in the House of Lords in April by the Minister for Refugees Lord Richard Harrington.

Consultations and inquiries

NICE Depression in Adults guideline

In January, we submitted our response to the consultation on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) draft guideline for treatment of adults with depression.

We’ve welcomed the improved focus on client choice and the recommendation that all psychological therapies should be considered as first line treatments for depression. However, we’ve raised serious concerns about how the guideline was put together and how relevant research was not considered. We’re also unhappy with how treatment options are ranked and the inconsistent use of the word counselling, and that longer-term psychological therapies are not recognised in the guideline.

We’ve long campaigned, alongside our members, other mental health organisations and MPs, for the guideline to be updated. In putting together our response to the consultation, we’ve drawn on feedback from counselling and psychotherapy academic researchers and from members who contacted us during the consultation period. Our submission was also informed by reviews we specifically commissioned to assess the research and analysis used in the guideline’s development.

Influencing the Wales Mental Health Workforce Plan

We're making the case to extend investment in counselling and training across Wales in our response to growing demand during the pandemic, building on discussions we held with the Deputy Mental Health Minister Lynne Neagle MS in the autumn. An important opportunity is the new Mental Health Workforce Plan being led by Healthcare Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).

This is the first workforce plan to focus specifically on mental health and, as well as holding constructive discussion with HEIW on what we would like to see in the plan, we're responding to the consultation to ensure that the counselling professions are fully represented in the plan.

We've also used the opportunity to push for counsellors and psychotherapists to be included alongside other professionals within the legislation who can undertake mental health assessments. This is longstanding concern of a number of our members in Wales and as well as being a barrier to employment we believe this would lead to improved parity with other parts of the mental health workforce.

You can find more details on the consultation one the HEIW website.

Health inequalities

As a growing issue of concern following the increasing information available regarding the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic, we’ve built on our work into health and mental health inequalities by responding to two consultations this year: the Senedd inquiry into mental health inequalities and the Scottish Parliament inquiry into health inequalities.

In our responses, we reference the urgent need to take a proactive stance and develop a preventative range of methods and long-term support systems that are individually relevant and suitable to people from underrepresented communities. We also championed the untapped resource of our members, who could play a critical role in fixing gaps in the Mental Health system and ensure that vulnerable people across Scotland and Wales get the support they most desperately need.

Third sector

Bereavement counselling

In January we had the opportunity to contribute to the vital work of the UK Commission on Bereavement through participation in a roundtable discussion on working together to improve support for bereaved people. We believe that investment is needed in comprehensive bereavement support in all nations of the UK that provides the right support at the right time, including counselling for those who need it. The Commission is due to report later this year and we will continue to advocate for improved access to talking therapies.

Counselling for kidney patients

Following a meeting to discuss respective policy priority issues, we were pleased to support Kidney Research UK’s call for increased access to specialist renal counsellors for people newly diagnosed with kidney disease. This provided an opportunity to share the experiences and insights of a BACP member working as a specialist renal counsellor.


In March we exhibited and presented at the Health and Wellbeing at Work Conference at the NEC in Birmingham, the flagship event is the largest of its kind in Europe and attracted over 4,000 delegates. Kris Ambler, our Workforce Lead, and Karan Chhabra, our Policy and Public Affairs Officer joined Chair of the Workforce Division, Julie Hughes at our exhibition stand.

Throughout the event, which we again sponsored this year, we worked to establish BACP as both a thought leader in the workplace wellbeing arena, and in terms of engaging a broad cross section of key stakeholders in valuable conversation. Over 100 delegates visited our stand over the two days, from organisations as diverse as British Airways, The Rail Passenger Safety Board and several public sector representatives from local authorities, the NHS and police force. Visitors were keen to learn about our work with employers and provided valuable insight into the challenges facing their workforce – and how we and our members could help meet them.

Our session on the mental health crisis in farming, which included speakers from the agricultural charity RABI, BACP accredited services working with farming communities and senior academics in the field of rural affairs, generated a great deal of interest among delegates. Following the event, we have been approached by an organisation seeking to extend our work in this area.

Over the two days we spoke to people representing the public, private and third sectors, communicating many of the Association's key messages and promoting the value of investing in workplace counselling. Several clear challenges for employers and counselling professionals emerged, including the increased prevalence of traumatic working environments, which we will factor into our strategic plans around improving employment opportunities for our members.

It was also encouraging to meet and speak with members at various stages of their career journey, from students starting their training to senior accredited members working in advanced, specialist roles.

Health & Wellbeing at Work exhibition

Children and young people

School and college leaders' survey for England

Working alongside key education unions including NAHT (National Association of Headteachers), ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) and NASUWT (National Association of School Masters and Women Teachers), we developed and disseminated an England-wide school and college leaders' survey to capture the level of counselling currently taking place, looking at how provision is funded (for those settings with counselling) alongside the perceived impact on school and college life.

In brief, the results indicated that more than nine out of 10 (94.9%) school staff say the need for counselling for pupils has increased since the start of the pandemic – but only one in 10 say funding available for school counselling has actually increased.

70% of the schools and colleges that have never offered in-house counselling say it’s down to simply not having the funding or budget. Schools and colleges that do offer provision tend to rely on the already over-stretched Pupil Premium budgets.

There was a resounding commitment for government funding (95.6%), with 88.8% indicating money should be ringfenced so schools and colleges can buy services in. 

When considering impact, there was strong data around counselling helping to reduce the workload of teachers and pastoral staff, and improving attendance and attainment, as well as helping with school refusers. 

A more detailed analysis of the data will be available soon and will be shared with policy makers and commissioners. The longer-term plan is to seek funding for this survey to be replicated with more schools and colleges taking part.

Reading Well

We’ve been part of a children and young people’s health expert consortium, reviewing a selection of books and digital resources that form part of an updated social prescribing scheme for 13 to 18 year olds. We’ve reviewed 10 books in detail with a focus on a range of issues including understanding autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. All resources were scored against a framework including the use of appropriate language and terminology and consideration of diversity and inclusion. The final chosen books will be made available to all libraries in England.

The programme is supported by a wide range of professional health bodies including NHS England and The Royal College of GPs.

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For further information about any of the articles in this issue, or to speak to our Policy team, please email publicaffairs@bacp.co.uk