The General Election presents opportunities to connect with decision-makers, not just for a fleeting moment in the polling station when we put our X on the ballot paper, but in this extended period of campaigning when parties are in full ‘listening’ mode, eager to respond to issues that matter to their electorates.
BACP’s General Election manifesto includes calls for all political parties to recognise the hidden mental health needs of older people and to act to ensure that choice and access to talking therapies are actively promoted as part of healthy ageing.
We’ve spoken to counsellors across the UK about their work with older clients and the barriers that can prevent older people from accessing talking therapies.
Ageist ideas that lower our expectations of later life wellbeing, limited flexibility and offer of home visits for much older people whose mobility may be impaired, and one-size-fits-all service provision that is unappealing to older adults or doesn’t allow them to draw on their rich lived experience, have all been identified as blockers to older people benefitting from counselling.
Living in a constituency that consistently and convincingly re-elects the same political party at every election, there’s a temptation to disconnect from the electoral process and to feel pessimistic about how much difference I can make.
But taking a lead from BACP’s general election campaigning toolkit, I wrote to four of my constituency candidates, citing statistics that depression affects 25% of people over the age of 65 and that it has been estimated that 85% receive no help from the NHS and asking them for their plans to improve older people’s mental health.
It was great to receive a reply from one of the candidates acknowledging that she wasn’t aware of the figures, was alarmed by them and had personal family experience of later life mental health problems.
She cited a local voluntary sector organisation that she has connections to and extended an invitation to discuss the issue further.
Access to counselling shouldn’t be rationed by age and there’s much work to be done to increase understanding of the enormous value that it has for people of all ages. You only have to watch our video below to see how counselling changes lives.
This election might not deliver everything we want from the next Government but starting conversations about vitally important issues with politicians of all parties offers another opportunity to bring about change that benefits our members and the clients that you work with.