She’s a former school counsellor who is aiming to ensure children, young people, families and counsellors’ voices are heard when it comes to influencing policy and bringing positive change to mental health care.

Meet Jo Holmes - our new Children, Young People and Families lead.

Jo started at BACP in January and has been already been as far as Edinburgh and Belfast, to meet members and stakeholders, including counsellors at Family Works, a young people’s counselling service in Northern Ireland.

She’s also attended key events in London to speak to politicians and influencers to tell them more about the work of BACP and our members – and explain how this can make a difference to young people’s lives.

One of the key issues Jo is working on is the advancement of school-based counselling as a first point response for children and young people struggling with psychological distress.

She’s keen to stress to policymakers and education and health leaders that BACP has a highly qualified workforce of professional counsellors who are ready to work in schools.

Listened to students

She said: I've seen the impact of school-based counselling with young people I've worked with as well as listened to the students themselves who believed access to a counsellor was essential in all schools and communities. I thought the best way to influence policy and change was within an organisation like BACP.”

She added: “The challenge ahead is working towards parity across the four nations. Scotland has recently committed to school-based counselling, why is England so far behind? We have much to learn from the wider UK and I'm keen to advance school-based counselling in all geographical areas, including the remotest parts of the Scottish isles and to look at alternatives to the traditional face-to-face two people in a room model.

“We are working in a time of great opportunities regarding the advancement of digital technology and I'm keen for BACP to play a huge role in this.”

Jo Holmes

Jo recently visited counsellors at FamilyWorks, in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Jo has 30 years of experience in working mainly with young people and families within a local authority in Leeds and within the education system in Northamptonshire.

She has worked in the fields of youth justice, within the ‘looked after’ system and also qualified as a youth worker and managed city-wide partnership sexual health projects.

She worked closely with Leeds Metropolitan University during her time in Leeds, working as an external moderator to the Youth and Community Degree course, providing a specialism in fieldwork practice. She also worked with the Leeds Crisis Centre completing a year-long level 3 counselling certificate.

But it was while she was working with a cluster of schools in Northamptonshire, that Jo began to realise the majority of her work was mental health focused.

“I realised that the best resource was myself,” she said.

Inspired by counsellors' impact

“I felt inspired by the impact counsellors were having on young people I was working with and persuaded my school to fund me to train as a person-centred counsellor, at diploma level. I eventually took on the role of the school counsellor in a secondary school.”

Jo will attend the CYPF exec committee’s meeting on Friday and the CYPF conference in London on Saturday.

She is working on a strategy that includes the use of digital technology, inclusion and a push for school counselling.

“I’m committed to including the voices of service users and hope this work can play a role in shaping campaigns and ultimately services. I want to make a difference, particularly from an inclusion and social justice perspective,” she said.

Read updates on our CYPF work here.