Engaging with elected representatives and decision makers

Fighting for primary school counselling in Northern Ireland

We are grateful to our members and partners in Northern Ireland who have supported our campaign to secure the further extension of the Healthy Happy Minds primary school counselling Pilot.   Over 5,000 emails have been sent to MPs and MLAs through our online portal, with just over 1,000 people signed up to the campaign. This has resulted in us securing universal and strong cross-party support from politicians in all parties.  

We’ve been working closely with the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), Barnardo’s, NI Counselling Forum, counselling providers, mental health charities and the Pure Mental campaign group to make a compelling the case to extend funding. Jo Holmes and Caryl Sibbett (representing BAAT) spoke at the All Party Group (APG) for Mental Health in March, highlighting the need for continued funding for the programme. Edith Bell (MBACP) and member of BACP’s Children, Young People and Families divisional executive group, representing Family Works, also spoke passionately about the impact of early intervention counselling work. Jo also spoke on BBC Radio Ulster.   

Whilst it has now been confirmed that funding will end for the service, we will continue campaigning to improve access to school counselling and other creative therapy interventions for children in Northern Ireland as well as across all nations of the UK. 

A huge thank you to everyone who has played their part in this campaign. We’ve had a fantastic response and have been delighted to see such strong cross-party support.

Welsh Committee supports BACP call for investment in Student Mental Health

We’re pleased to see evidence we provided to a wide-ranging inquiry into student mental health support in Wales has been included in recommendations to the Welsh Government. 

We responded to a consultation by the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee into the effectiveness of higher education mental health provision.  Our submission included a call for the Welsh Government to follow the Scottish Government in funding additional counsellors in Scotland’s colleges and universities. The Report is now with the Welsh Government for their consideration.

Political engagement: Rural mental health

In collaboration with our political contacts, we've challenged the Government on their proposals for a Major Conditions Strategy, asking how this will affect the mental health of those in rural communities, and how our members can deliver crucial counselling and psychotherapy to people within these communities who need vital and timely support.  

Our Parliamentary Question, kindly put forward by Richard Foord MP to the Minister for Mental Health Maria Caulfield, asked what steps the Department of Health and Social Care is taking to provide mental health support, including counselling, for those in rural communities as part of the Major Conditions Strategy. This was answered by the Minister in February, who stated that the NHS Long Term Plan commits to investing an additional £2.3 billion a year into mental health services through Integrated Care Board (ICB) Funding.

We know that farmers and those in rural communities are at an increased risk of mental ill-health, with the Big Farming Survey conducted by RABI finding that 36% of the entire farming community described themselves as “probably” or “possibly” depressed. Those living in rural communities also suffer from increased levels of isolation, higher rates of suicide and a difficulty in accessing appropriate services. Since launching one year ago the specialist face to face counselling provided by BACP organisational member, Red Umbrella/Care Coins, has been inundated with demand. RABI, the organisation that funds this support for rural communities, is among many third sector organisations helping bridge significant gaps in provision.  

We will continue to work with our contacts in order to challenge the Government to ensure that life-changing mental health support, including counselling and psychotherapy, is available to those who need it.

Richard Foord MP  

Maria Caulfield MP

Influencing the Devolved Local Health Agenda in England

BACP is continuing to engage closely with England's 42 new Integrated Care Systems through our membership on the Health Devolution Commission. This brings together six former health ministers, including Joint Chairs Andy Burnham and Sir Norman Lamb, with leading figures in Health and Local Government including many senior figures from Integrated Care Systems.  

We are using our influence on the commission to call on Integrated Care Systems to take a lead on working with Third Sector providers to develop local community focused mental health support which addresses gaps in provision from national programmes, including NHS Talking Therapies.  We see this as an important opportunity to ensure counselling and psychotherapy is at the heart of the ICSs role to tackle health inequalities.

Securing college and university counselling in Scotland

We are continuing to campaign to secure clarity on funding for student counselling in Scotland with the current £20m commitment, secured following lobbing by BACP and NUS Scotland in 2018, running out at the end of this academic year. 

We are incredibly concerned that the impact is already being felt by counsellors themselves, who are providing a vital service but whose jobs are sadly under threat due to lack of clarity on whether future investment will be in place. 

We have written to newly appointed First Minister, Humza Yusaf MSP and the new Minister for Further and Higher Education, Graeme Day MSP, to call for an urgent commitment to long term sustainable funding which will enable institutions to provide assurances to counselling staff that their services will be retained. We are coordinating our response with Colleges Scotland, who are separately submitted a letter outlining their concerns which has been signed by the 21 principals from Scotland’s FE Colleges. 

Engaging with members

Panel discussion on depression in young adults

Jo Holmes (BACP CYPF Lead) hosted a panel discussion focusing on depression in young adults and how this is presented within counselling. The panel included Sarah Worley-James from Cardiff University, Kelli Swain-Cowper Curriculum Lead Mental Health Workforce from Place2Be, Sanjay Badhan, school counsellor in a Birmingham Academy Trust and member of the school-based counselling Expert Reference Group and Sarah Watson, BACP’s CYP Ethics Lead. 

The one-hour discussion is available on BACP’s Learning Hub and explores low mood, the impact of life events including trauma and an opportunity to listen to the panel’s reflections as to whether there is a risk of over pathologizing how young adults respond to challenging life experiences.

Roundtable event

Leaders from 7 third sector BACP organisational member services participated in a roundtable discussion meeting in January 2023, sharing experiences and priorities for their services. The services represented a diverse mix of delivery models, including those delivering contracted counselling services as part of NHS Talking Therapies, and services specialising in work with people from marginalised community backgrounds. Key themes that emerged included the under-funding of counselling services, increasing demand for psychological support, and high rates of referral but no funding from NHS sources. The attendees recommended that BACP undertake work to investigate and report on the pressures that the latter is having on services and to produce a resource for services that clearly articulates their value and imperative for funding.

Expert Reference Group

A further recommendation from the January roundtable meeting has led to the establishment of a third sector Expert Reference Group. Meeting quarterly, the group has the remit to inform BACP’s policy work, contributing insights and authoritative experience to the full range of our influencing, campaigning and comms work. The first meeting of the ERG was held on 30th March 2023. 

New programme to secure positions for counselling in Welsh NHS

At our Making Connections event in Cardiff in February, our Four Nations Lead, Steve Mulligan launched a new dedicated programme of work to help us secure greater recognition for counsellors and psychotherapists within the NHS in Wales.  Primary focusing on direct engagement with Health Boards and Local Commissioners, we are hoping to ultimately generate new paid opportunities for our members in Wales and ensure the profession can play its part in helping to meet the growing unmet need we have seen since the pandemic, and which has been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.  We also want to address the status of counsellors already working in the NHS, in terms of pay, recognition, job security and progression.  We are in the process of establishing a focus group so that we can ensure that this work is informed by BACP members working within the health sector.  

Please email steve.mulligan@bacp.co.uk if you would like to take part in this programme  

BACP a trusted partner in Kooth growth and expansion plans

In December Kris Ambler met with both the CEO and Clinical Director of Kooth, digital mental health services provider and BACP accredited service, to discuss their strategic priorities for 2023 and how these align with those of the Workforce Employment Strategy. Kris outlined the priority sectors he would be focusing on in the next year, the emergence of new workforce challenges that represent opportunities for service providers, and the potential for overseas expansion for UK-based services, especially in North America. Kooth shared our plans to work with key industry sectors, including blue light, farming and retail, and echoed our calls for greater support for SME employers who are typically furthest away from investing in the workplace wellbeing market. They also outlined future plans to take their services in to new overseas territories, challenging the prevailing paradigm of competitors entering the UK from abroad. IN future months Kris will continue to work with the Kooth team to advise and help shape their future services – with a new SME offer expected in the Spring.


Putting the cost-of-living crisis on the agenda

In January, Workforce Lead, Kris Ambler, presented an online Working With session on Financial Hardship, a member event that attracted over 200-member sign ups and received an incredibly positive response. Kris worked with his network of employers and stakeholders to deliver a programme that included talks from Health Assured, the UK’s largest EAP provider, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and Red Umbrella, a BACP member organisation specialised in working with vulnerable adults. The event kickstarts a planned programme of activity around the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on mental health, helping position BACP as a thought leader in this field. 

Children and young people

Citizen’s UK

Jo Holmes has been strengthening the organisation’s collaborative links with Citizens UK by engaging with key education and support unions to be part of the Citizens UK general election campaign team. The aim of the campaign is to have funded school counselling provision in every party manifesto in the lead up to the election. If members are interested in getting involved in campaign work in their local area, referred to as ‘chapters’ across England and engaging with MPs then please contact jo.holmes@bacp.co.uk  

Jo is working with a group of students from a range of schools in Leicester re testimonials on the impact of school counselling interventions to use as part of the campaign work. 

Round table event – Prevent Duty

Jo attended a roundtable discussion group led by MEDACT,  a global public health campaigning organisation, working with health workers to provide research and evidence-based campaigning in order to challenge the root causes of global and public health inequalities. Medact are currently campaigning to end Prevent in healthcare, highlighting the emerging damage to communities caused by the Prevent duty. 

The focus of the event was to discuss the findings in their report, ‘False Positives the Prevent Counter Extremism Policy in Healthcare’,  highlighting the impact of the Prevent duty in the NHS, looking at the interaction between the policy and other professional confidentiality duties. 

The report analyses the figures relating to the number of referrals to Prevent across a number of NHS Trusts, discussing the mental health and racialised implications of the duty. Jo, alongside Myria Khan, representing the Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapy Network discussed issues linking to the ethical framework and potential conflicts, whilst recognising that mandatory reporting of suspicion of terrorist acts was separate to providing a safe place within counselling for young people to explore their views without counsellors needing to pass ‘concerns’ on to Prevent. 

The aim is to work with Medact to produce a think piece article for the CYPF journal. If any members have experience of the Prevent duty directly impacting their practice, then please contact Jo Holmes to discuss. 


Crisis pregnancy counselling services uncovered

BACP CYPF Lead Jo Holmes contributed to a BBC Panorama programme looking into unethical ‘counselling’ practice, delivered by practitioners who are not members of professional bodies, working from a predominantly pro-life perspective. Read about the episode and how to access it here.

Leveraging investment in BACP organisational members

Kris Ambler, Workforce Lead, met with Kie Kuriyama, Investment Analyst and Independent consultant engaged by Caygan Capital, a Japanese firm interested in investing in BACP member organisation Red Umbrella Care Coins. As part of their due diligence process, Caygan were interested in understanding more about the UK counselling market, the regulatory environment and workforce capacity to help support their investment decision. Over two separate conversations Kris spoke to a range of opportunities in the UK context, citing the growing value of the UK corporate workplace wellbeing/wellness market (circa £480 in 2023 based on revenue) and its annualized growth of around 0.7% since 2018. Care Coins have experienced significant growth over the last two years, attributing much of that to working closely with Workforce Lead Kris Ambler, who has helped them improve services and secure contracts to provide services for RABI and the Care Workers Charity. The Caygan investment, of around £300,000, will help them further expand their service offer, make improvements to business infrastructure and continue to employ only BACP therapists – a cornerstone of their value proposition.  

BACP sign letter supporting NHS staff

We’ve collaborated with other professional bodies in health and care to renew calls on the government to urgently provide funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs, which are being forced to close despite NHS staff sickness absence figures showing a worsening mental health crisis in the NHS workforce.  

NHS staff sickness absence figures for November 2022, published by NHS Digital, reveal that anxiety, stress, depression, and other psychiatric illnesses, continue to be the most reported reason for sickness absence amongst NHS staff, accounting for more than 526,900 full time equivalent staff days lost and 24 per cent of all sickness absence. 

This has left the workforce without vital support, with four hubs already forced to close and the remaining facing an uncertain future, raising serious concerns for staff wellbeing and patient safety. 

In an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Care, Steve Barclay, professional bodies in health and care are together calling on the government to provide a minimum of one year's transitional ring-fenced funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs, so they can continue as a vital lifeline for NHS and social care staff. 

As well as BACP, the letter is signed by the British Psychological Society, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, NHS Providers, the Association of Clinical Psychologists UK and the British Association for Social Workers. 

BACP attend the NSPA Annual Conference

Our Policy & Public Affairs Officer, Karan Chhabra, attended the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) Conference at the Kia Oval, London in January. The sold-out event heard from global experts including Sir Louis Appleby, who leads the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England and Professor Ann John, Professor in Public Health and Psychiatry at Swansea University. The event was also attended by key stakeholders within the mental health sector, including representatives from Mind and Samaritans, as well as counselling services such as the Jacob Abraham Foundation. 

Workshops on the day shone a light on how recent economic challenges and the developing cost-of-living crisis are exacerbating the effects of widening mental health inequalities, already laid bare by the legacy of the pandemic. Access to preventative and postvention mental health support, including counselling, psychotherapy and suicide prevention services, are therefore more important than ever. 

Consultations and inquiries

The Policy Team responded to 12 consultation and inquiries from December 2022 to February 2023. This included our eight-point submission to the Chancellor’s 2023 Spring Budget, in which we made the case for sustained, timely investment in mental health services, including counselling and psychotherapy, in order to tackle the mental health crisis in the UK. We made specific calls to invest in appropriate interventions for those at greatest risk of [psychological distress and mental ill-health, including those from marginalised community backgrounds (including refugees) and those most affected by the cost of living crisis. We also focused on tackling the workforce crisis in the NHS by creating opportunities for more existing qualified counsellors and psychotherapists to move into the NHS workforce.  

We also responded to consultations from the NHS, Scottish Government, Professional Standards Authority and NICE.

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