Racism, its deep impact on those affected, and the importance of counselling and BACP’s response to racism, was the focus of discussion at our President’s Event held to coincide with Black History Month 2021.

In preparation for the roundtable discussion, BACP President David Weaver posed the question:

Can the counselling profession realise its potential without addressing the current and emerging challenges of race and racialised trauma?

BACP Head of Stakeholder Relations, Suky Kaur, shared details of BACP’s emerging strategy to improve equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across all the professional body’s functions. Suky reported on the work of the Task and Finish group of BACP members in bringing the strategy to life and that the BACP Board of Governors has designated £1.3m of funding to deliver on the agenda. It was noted that the EDI focus is inclusive and recognises the need for action to improve equality of access to the profession for people from a range of marginalised backgrounds.

Attendees were unequivocal in the call for race and racism to be issues that BACP does not shy away from and that are foremost in our focus on equality. Jabeer Butt, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation, and BACP Vice-President, reflected on how difficult it is to have conversations about race and racism in today’s Britain. He warns, “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean that it’s become easier."

Jabeer also reminded the meeting that whilst the racist murder of George Floyd in the US focussed attention on racist violence, that we need look no further than our own society and the murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman and the killing of Sabina Nessa when considering the gravity and impact of racist violence.

Contributions from a range of organisations, including BACP accredited services Pattigift and Gloucestershire Counselling Service, as well as Black Thrive, BAATN and The Black Training Enterprise Group highlighted the importance of community engagement, co-production and partnership working to remove barriers to the counselling professions. During the meeting details of BACP’s pilot third-sector grant scheme were shared. Applications for funding are invited from BACP organisational members to work in partnership with a community-led group or organisation to deliver innovation that improves access to counselling for people from marginalised and racialised community backgrounds.

BACP Deputy Chair, Michael Golding emphasised that the Board have agreed that equality, diversity and inclusion is a priority for BACP and that it's understood that this work needs to be resourced financially and in staff time, and that equality and diversity will be a thread that runs through every workstream and department.

In welcoming BACP’s preparedness to lead on addressing issues of race and racism, Joe O’Loughlin from The Black Training Enterprise Group urged for recognition that a long-term and resolute commitment is required. Joe says, “Mental trauma - racialised trauma, is part of our experience. We’ve learnt to live with it. What we’ve always been wanting is people to come alongside and help us with that. But those individuals must come along openly and honestly and they must be willing to make mistakes, have difficult conversations with us and, at times, be criticised.”

In summary of the meeting, David Weaver recognised the calls from attendees that BACP must be bold and not expect different outcomes without radical changes in behaviour and activity. “If we do the same thing, we’re going to get the same outcome… so let’s move away from rhetoric to something meaningful.”

David warmly invites and encourages you to watch the video of the event and to join in BACP’s commitment to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in the counselling professions.