We have witnessed some interesting shifts in the national political psyche over the seven weeks of the General Election campaign, including an emerging cross party consensus on the need to tackle the growing mental health challenge, more politically aware and engaged younger people, and a willingness across most of the parties to look beyond the narrow lens of austerity.
I am grateful for the passion and support from BACP members, right across the country, who supported our General Election campaign. Across the UK, members engaged directly with their MPs, leaving them in no doubt that counselling changes lives.
BACP made a conscious effort to use the election to secure positive change for counselling and psychotherapy. We successfully influenced each of the main parties across the four nations to secure policies within manifestos:
- We succeeded in getting a promise to ensure a fair proportion of public funding for mental health research in the Conservative manifestos for England, Scotland and Wales, as well as the manifestos of both UK and Scottish Liberal Democrats.
- To help put England and Scotland on par with Wales and Northern Ireland, we secured promises on school-based counselling from six parties: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
- Our proposal for a 28 day target from referral to treatment was adopted by the Welsh Conservatives and UKIP. Labour’s UK manifesto also incorporated our ask for NICE to evaluate the potential to increase the range of psychological therapies available.
- While we didn’t receive any concrete support for our ask to improve access to workplace counselling, there was a commitment in the Conservative manifestos (UK, Wales and Scotland) to work with employers following the Stevenson-Famer Review, to look at improving workplace support for mental health.
The hung parliament makes it more important than ever that we have secured these important manifesto commitments. The minority Conservative Government will likely need to cut deals with all parties to get their programme through, particularly as their new main political allies, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party are barred by EVEL legislation from voting on ‘devolved’ English-only matters (such as health and education). Securing these promises therefore provides a critical platform to help focus our political engagement over the coming years.
There’s much work to do together during the next Parliamentary session to fight to protect and promote counselling. Most importantly, we know that in July the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will be consulting on their updated draft of the Depression in Adults Guidance. Back in 2009, BACP, with the help of our members, successfully fought against NICE’s recommendation to remove counselling and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy from the Guideline.
We believe there is a real risk that the same may happen again which would have a devastating impact on the commissioning of counselling services through the NHS. BACP has a plan in place to fight, should these recommendations be made, and we will need your help.To find out more about the NICE consultation and BACP’s plans please see BACP campaigns.
Building on the success of our election campaign, I hope you will continue to back us to both protect the counselling professions and to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the public.