Our members across Greater Manchester helped put counselling and psychotherapy firmly on the agenda for the upcoming mayoral elections in a special hustings event.

We were proud to sponsor the Build Back Better Mental Health mayoral hustings, which brought together Greater Manchester mayoral candidates and put the spotlight firmly on counselling and psychotherapy.

The event saw candidates from across the political spectrum offer their views and proposals for how to improve Greater Manchester’s mental health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And among the 200 attendees we were pleased to see many BACP members and counseling services from across the city region.

Mental health

Some of the event’s speakers acknowledged from the outset that mental health had been a salient issue long before the pandemic.

This was picked up by the evening’s host, comedian Juliette Burton, in her introductory remarks, in which she shared her own mental health journey.

Juliette said: “My life has been saved by mental health services. It’s time for the mental health pandemic to be recognized and addressed.”

Andy Burnham, the Labour Party’s incumbent, said mental health issues ran parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His proposals for enhanced counselling and psychotherapy services for Greater Manchester included a “live well service” which would structure support through organisation by primary care but delivery through voluntary and community services, including digital delivery, particularly for younger people.

This contrasted with the approach of Stephen Morris of the English Democrats, who held that counselling services “need to start opening up” for in-person delivery, as “it’s not the same on Zoom”.

Powerful voice

He maintained that the Mayor’s Office was a “powerful voice” in signposting people to services.

The Liberal Democrats’ Simon Lepori said his vision for building back better mental health was to balance the financial books so Manchester invested at least as much of a proportion of its budget into its mental health services as the national average for England in 2020.

He also spoke of wanting a future for services in Manchester which “helps practitioners provide a service that’s in the right place at the right time”, from community interventions to in-patient care.

Melanie Horrocks, of the Green Party, spoke about how communities in Greater Manchester had been impacted differently by the pandemic.

Following a holistic approach for mental health services which took account of living and employment conditions, access to green spaces, among other things, Horrock focused on people’s engagement with and access to services.

She highlighted how “services not being available” and waiting lists could lead to disengagement. She said a variety of therapeutic options were needed “so people can actually get help which works for them”.


Haydn Williams, our Chief Executive, had introduced the evening by paying tribute to the work of the “1,500 outstanding members of the BACP across Greater Manchester, who will be a vital resource in building back better mental health for the area”.

After the election in May we’ll be engaging with the new Mayor to ensure they use our members in the critical work ahead to address the mental health impact of the pandemic in Greater Manchester.

Watch the hustings again.