From October 2020, we began distributing a workforce mapping survey to all renewing members. The purpose of the survey is to develop and improve our knowledge of our members’ current working practices so as to create a better picture of the wider employment landscape of the profession.
This is an extremely valuable source of feedback for BACP as the data gathered from this survey provide important insights into the work and capacity of BACP members, which we can use to inform our policy and advocacy work. Through these vital data, you’re enabling us to identify where our members are working and who you work with, which is already helping to make a stronger case for counselling and psychotherapy with policy makers and commissioners.
These data allow us to further demonstrate the availability of a trained workforce, who are able to respond to gaps in provision and provide the additional support needed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data that continue to come from the survey are used to directly support our work to secure more opportunities for our members across all four nations of the UK.
The survey is currently emailed to members in the month following their annual membership renewal, and during the first six months – (October 2020 and April 2021), a total of 23,114 (approximately 40% of the membership) have received it. Of that, 2,857 members completed the survey, which is a response rate of approximately 12.5%.
We’re confident that the results to date are broadly representative of our membership and we believe they give an accurate picture of our members’ current working practices.
We’ve reviewed the data collected from this initial six-month period and we’re pleased to share key preliminary findings with you now.
The survey findings show that the average number of paid client contact hours was 11 per week. The highest number of paid hours were reported by respondents who work in university or higher education settings, employee assistance or workplace programmes, NHS IAPT services, and secondary schools. The lowest number of paid hours were reported by respondents working in the third sector.
By comparison, the average number of unpaid or voluntary client contact hours was 2.4 per week, although 61.3% of respondents reported that they did not work unpaid hours. Those working unpaid hours were mostly students, trainees and third sector employees. Of qualified, registered members, 34.2% reported working some unpaid hours.
In relation to income, our survey shows that around three-quarters (77.8%) of respondents earn an annual income of £30,000 or less from their counselling work. When respondents were asked whether they could earn a living from their counselling work, only 34.7% agreed that they could.
Among survey respondents, the most common professional role (and primary professional role) was practitioner in private practice, in the third, charitable or voluntary sectors, or in school, college or university settings.
In addition, approximately one-quarter (23.9%) of respondents were supervisors.
Of those respondents working in the third sector, almost a third (31.9%) of practitioners said that they worked some unpaid hours and only a quarter (26.1%) agreed that they could earn a living from their counselling work.
Additional paid work
The survey found that a high proportion of respondents (43.1%) didn’t want any additional paid work. Of those respondents who said they did want more paid work, 54% said they wanted between 5% and 25% more, as a proportion of their current workload, and 24.4% said that they wanted 50% or more.
Regional and national differences
In relation to the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, our survey found few differences between nations in member earnings and number of paid hours. The data show that approximately one-third of respondents across each nation agreed that they could earn a living from their counselling work.
There were few differences between practitioners working in the four regions, with the data showing similar responses to all survey questions. However, there were some differences in that members in London, Greater London and the West Midlands wanted the highest number of additional paid hours.
The data also show that the three most popular sectors where members wanted more work were private practice, universities and higher education sectors and healthcare (NHS).
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Along with specific data on workforce mapping, the survey also collected data on ethnicity, age, disability, gender and sexual orientation. These data will help to inform our evolving equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, which aims to increase diversity and progression within the counselling profession.
We looked at differences in annual income and average number of paid and unpaid client hours each week, based on the above demographic characteristics. For some demographic groups, the average values for annual income and paid and unpaid hours have been removed from the analysis due to some demographic characteristics having low, and therefore potentially unreliable, numbers.*
When we look at the survey responses by ethnicity, the data show that Asian and white respondents report having the highest number of paid hours per week. Respondents from black and ‘other – specify if you wish’ ethnic groups reported a lower average annual income from their work than other ethnic groups.*
With regard to age, the data show that respondents aged between 45 and 64 years worked the highest number of paid hours, and those aged 75 and over worked the highest number of unpaid hours. It also showed that respondents aged 35 to 64 earned a higher annual income compared with those who were younger or older.
Respondents who considered themselves to have a disability worked slightly fewer paid hours per week than other respondents. However, the number of weekly unpaid hours did not vary. The data also show that people who considered themselves to have a disability were more likely to have no income from their counselling work or an annual income of less than £20,000.
In relation to gender, there were minimal differences between those responding as male and those responding as female. However, those responding as male were more likely to be earning a higher income than those responding as female.*
For sexual orientation, the data show that gay men and gay/lesbian women worked a slightly higher number of paid hours on average compared with bisexual, heterosexual and self-described people.
Finally, the data show that 8.9% of respondents offered therapeutic work in languages other than English, including British Sign Language. Of these, 37.3% reported that they worked in the third sector.
Informing our work
Many of the survey findings provide more robust data to support issues that we’ve heard about anecdotally from members for some time, such as the responses relating to income and the difficulty some members reported in earning a living from their counselling work, as well as how this challenge can be compounded for those from marginalised groups. Having robust data on these challenges directly from our members strengthens our ability not only to understand these difficulties but also to proactively challenge and campaign for improved opportunities and conditions for all our members.
The data have already been used to inform and positively support our policy work to champion the profession and our members. We’ve used the data in our consultation and select committee inquiry responses and directly in correspondence with Government ministers, to challenge misinformation around a lack of therapists to work with children and young people.v
The survey data have also helped us in our work to improve pathways for counsellors and psychotherapists to work in the NHS, by providing evidence to support us when we tackle misconceptions about therapists’ willingness to do this work. Increasingly what the survey data are allowing us to do is to highlight to commissioners and employers the additional capacity that our members can bring to their services, and that they offer a pool of trained and experienced practitioners.
The more data we collect, the greater understanding we have of the employment landscape, helping us to better champion the skills of our members and your ability to fill gaps in and build provision across multiple sectors and across all the four nations of the UK.
Once the survey has been running for a full 12 months, we’ll carry out an in-depth analysis of the data and provide members with a more detailed report on our findings. We will also look at the data in comparison with other research we’ve conducted and data we’ve already collected, which will continue to inform our work.
How you can get involved
The BACP workforce mapping survey is being sent to all renewing members in the month after their annual membership renewal. Members who are midway through their membership year and have not yet renewed will receive the survey after renewal.
The survey is rolling throughout the year, which means all members will have the opportunity to complete it. We plan to continue to issue the survey beyond 12 months, so that our understanding of our members’ working practices remains up to date. We encourage all members to feed back to us via this important survey, which will continue to help us work more effectively on your behalf.
If you haven’t received the survey and think you should, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* The following groups have been included in preliminary demographic analysis but excluded from the additional comparative analyses, since low numbers of responses would make such analyses unreliable: ‘Gypsy/Traveller/Irish Traveller’, ‘Age group 16-24’, ‘Non-binary’ and ‘Prefer to self-describe’. The categories of Asian/Asian British, Indian, Asian/Asian British, Pakistani, Asian/Asian British, Bangladeshi, Asian/Asian British, Chinese, Asian/Asian British and Other Asian were combined and collated for the same reason.