Jo Holmes, our Children, Young People and Families Lead, appeared before Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee as part of an inquiry to review Scottish Government’s £60m investment in 350 new school-based counsellors.
Jo used the opportunity to welcome progress so far and advised on best practice against a range of issues including training needs, links with CAMHs, whole school approach and safeguarding, from our longstanding work to embed school-based counselling in Northern Ireland and Wales.
She also called for improvements to the programme, including the provision of funded supervision for therapists taking the new roles, as is the case in the other nations, and for an evaluation framework which allows findings to be incorporated into practice.
During the session, witnesses questioned where the workforce is to supply adequate numbers of counsellors to fill the positions by September.
Jo said many of our 2,300 members in Scotland undertake portfolio careers and are employed by a variety of employers or private clients and do paid and voluntary work. As well as having capacity to undertake additional work, there is a clear willingness to do so, she said.
BACP’s 2019 workforce survey showed that more than two thirds (68%) of respondents working with children and young people have capacity to undertake more paid client hours.
The survey also showed a strong appetite from our counsellors working with adults to undertaken further training to help meet any additional shortfall. Almost half (47%) were interested in specialising in this area, with almost three quarters (73%) stating they had additional capacity to do so.
To further mitigate against a potential shortfall, we have worked with the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) to provide solutions to support counsellors working with adults who want to build additional skills to help them transition into these new roles.
With support from Scottish Government, we’re in the process of supporting them to develop a new Professional Development Award (PDA) in Counselling Children and Young People based on our competency framework for working with Children and Young People.
This will ensure our members applying for the forthcoming school counselling roles will have a skill set and experience to match these competences underpinned by a clear CPD route.
This also supports the Government’s GIRFEC commitment – ‘getting it right for every school child’ – ensuring the right support is in place, delivered by the right people at the right time.
Some 10% of our members in Scotland are students, further growing the workforce to support the future expansion of counselling in Scotland and to help meet increasing demand.
In 2017, the previous Mental Health Minister, Maureen Watt MSP, helped us launch a new BACP approved HND Counselling qualification with the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA). Since the launch almost 100 students have joined us as practitioners.
A couple of witnesses also questioned whether there would be supervisors available to support the new counsellors. Jo said that our 2019 survey showed half of our members in Scotland currently work as supervisors, and half of those support counsellors working with Children and Young People.
Of those focusing on adult supervision, 89% are keen to develop their skills to support counsellors in schools and have the capacity to take on additional work.
The session can be viewed online and we hope the committee will produce a write up of the session over the coming weeks, followed by recommendations for Scottish Government that we will share with our members.
We will be taking the opportunity in the intervening period to reiterate to the Committee that BACP members are available to fulfil these new roles.
Headlines from our Scottish Workforce Survey (2018):
- We had a 25% response rate from our 2,300 members in Scotland
- 40% of respondents indicated they are currently working with children and young people aged 4-10 and/or children and young people aged 11-18
- Just over two-thirds of those working with children and young people (68%) indicated they currently have capacity for more paid client hours
- For those not currently working with children and young people, 47% were interested in specialising in this area, with 73% stating that they had additional capacity.
Headlines from our Scottish Workforce Supervision Survey (2019):
- 35% of our members in Scotland took part
- 50% of our members currently work as supervisors and have capacity and willingness to take on additional work
- 50% of supervisors currently specialise in working with children and young people, 89% of those who do not are keen to develop this skill set and have the capacity to take on additional work
- There is a geographic split where supervisors are located, with 55% based in the Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are some concerns re the shortage of supervisors in more rural and remote areas, for example, in Moray (with a population of almost 100,000) there are no BACP supervisors whereas in Shetland (population of 24,000) there are 3. The provision of online supervision could be an option here
- The data demonstrates an appetite from counsellors to develop their current skill set and train as CYP focused supervisors to meet the new demand.