The Scottish Government has published its new Programme for Government - A Fairer, Greener Scotland, which sets out the broad policy framework for the next five years and includes a number of positive policy announcements for the country’s counselling profession. 

We’re particularly pleased to see counselling as a key element within the mental health strand of the programme.

There’s a continued commitment to funding counselling across all secondary schools, including  a new “guarantee of access in school to mental health and wellbeing support, including counselling services”.

The government has also pledged to deliver its commitment for an additional 80 counsellors in universities and colleges in the next two years.

Both of these pledges were a significant policy win for BACP, our members and partners in Scotland following years of campaigning.

New opportunities

There are multiple references to a number of new psychological support programmes, which could provide further opportunities for BACP members across a number of sectors.

There is a new commitment for every GP Practice to have access to a mental health and wellbeing service by 2026, funding 1,000 additional dedicated staff. Local Integration Authorities are being asked to develop local plans this year.

Over the next year, the Scottish Government will be working on an expanded Digital Mental Health Programme, that will increase self-referral to online treatments, establish a new Mental Health Innovation Hub and explore options for an online national psychology service.

To support the mental health of health and social care staff, there is an £8 million package of psychological support for this year, with £2 million targeted at social care and primary care, in recognition of their specific needs.  There is also a commitment to develop a new National Wellbeing Programme – providing Workforce Specialist Service and psychological interventions and therapies – which seeks to embed wellbeing into everyone’s working lives.

Further support will also come from a new £500 million Whole Family Wellbeing Fund to help support families to stay together and overcome challenges before they reach crisis point.

This aims to significantly reduce the number of children and young people in care by 2030 and will provide support on a range of issues, including: child and adolescent mental health, child poverty, alcohol and drugs misuse and educational attainment.

In recognition of the key contribution of the third sector, the Scottish Government will use their Strengthening Collaboration commitment with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)  and Cosla to develop a new multi-year funding model, ensuring more sustainable funding for services.

The Strategic Framework

The Scottish Government has pledged to revise the Ten Year Mental Health Action Plan, which will be reviewed and refreshed in 2022, as well as a developing a new Student Mental Health Action Plan. There’s also a pledge to deliver a new long-term mental health workforce plan, to ensure the workforce is in place to deliver these ambitions.

Scottish Government is also extending the National Trauma Training Programme for two years to 2023, to facilitate a trauma‑informed workforce and services. An understanding of trauma will also inform the development of the new Mental Health Quality Standards.

Increased Funding

Alongside these specific measures we’re pleased that funding for mental health will be increased by at least 25% over the course of this Parliament, including £120 million for mental health service recovery, and a promise to ensure at least 1% of all frontline NHS spend goes on Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

To further support children and young people, there’s an additional commitment to double the budget for community based mental wellbeing services to £30 million. We’re also pleased to see the doubling of suicide prevention funding to £2.8 million per annum for the next five years as well as £50 million a year to get more people into life‑saving addiction treatment, including aftercare for those returning to communities.

Steve Mulligan, our Four Nations Lead, said: “We welcome the continued recognition in this Programme for Government to the critical role our members in Scotland play in delivering life changing counselling  to vulnerable people and communities.

“We’re pleased to see increased investment in the mental health workforce, together with range of new and expanded interventions across a wide range of sectors and settings, which are closer to communities and trauma informed.

“We’re keen to continue to support the Scottish Government to ensure our members are recognised within Scotland’s mental health workforce and able to play an expanded role in delivering these important ambitions.”   

Read the full Programme for Government.