Comedian, author and Relate President Ruby Wax is spearheading the campaign alongside BACP President David Weaver, calling on the government to increase funding for relationship support services, such as counselling.
BACP and Relate's #InvestInRelationships campaign aims to ensure everyone has access to support when their relationships hit hard times, irrespective of their ability to pay.
Laura, 37, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, is married with four children and has a household income of less than £16,000. She sought relationship counselling with her husband. She said: "My husband and I have been experiencing relationship issues including constant arguments and things are only getting worse. I spent a long time convincing him that we needed relationship counselling only to discover we were unable to afford it. This caused further problems between us because my husband felt the whole process had been a waste of time. I want us to stay together because I know we truly love each other, as well as for the sake of the family, but desperate situations push people towards desperate measures, such as contemplating divorce. I agree there should be more funding for relationship support – healthy relationships create healthy families which in turn creates healthy citizens."
This campaign comes as a poll on Relate's website* of over 2,000 people found that 35% of respondents said they had sought relationship counselling in the past, but either didn't go ahead or dropped out early due to the cost. This rose to 41% for those on a household income of £24,999 or less. In total 87% of respondents felt they would benefit from attending relationship counselling with their partner, despite many not being able to afford it.
David Weaver, President of BACP, said: "We know that counselling changes lives, and at times of difficulty it really can make the world of difference. Relationship counselling should be available to everyone whenever they need it, regardless of their income, so that they can live happier, healthier lives. Our counsellors can offer vital support for couples and families who may be struggling with a range of pressures. Please sign our petition today, so that together we can get the government to sit up and listen, and help those who need it."
A separate YouGov survey** from BACP and Relate of over 5,000 UK adults found that almost a quarter (21%) of respondents on low household incomes were likely to say mental health were placing pressure on their relationship compared to 12% on higher incomes. Respondents on low incomes were also more likely to say money worries, debt, housing and physical health conditions were placing a strain on their relationship. The research found that 94% of the general public agreed that strong and healthy relationships are important for physical and mental wellbeing. The majority (68%) said that relationship counselling should be available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their income and ability to pay.
Currently an estimated 2.87 million adults in the UK are in distressed relationships. Evidence shows people who live in a distressed relationship are three times as likely to suffer from mood disorders such as depression. Relate's President, Ruby Wax said: "As our research shows, low income families are likely to experience additional strains on their relationships because of financial pressures but are less able to afford counselling. This is a social justice issue, which is why Relate and BACP are calling on the government to invest in relationships. Without support, distressed relationships can have devastating consequences, leading to homelessness, domestic abuse, mental health issues and poor life chances for our kids. Please sign our petition today."
Despite delivering clear benefits to individuals and society, counselling is not generally commissioned as a public service or available on the NHS. Some charities, including Relate, offer subsidised or free counselling where possible, but due to limited funding, provision remains restricted.
* Taken from a poll of 2140 Relate website users, June 2018.
**Poll of 5000 UK adults conducted by YouGov on behalf of Relate and BACP, May 2018. Any inaccuracies in the reporting of the data are the sole responsibility of Relate.
***Whisman, MA., Uebelacker, L.A. (2003) Comorbidity of Relationship Distress and Mental and Physical Health Problems. In Snyder, D.K., Whisman, M.A. (eds.) Treating Difficult Couples, Guilford Press