The Shadow Mental Health Minister has spoken about the “incredible job” done by counsellors and psychotherapists as she made the case for more investment in mental health at the Labour party conference. 

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan was speaking alongside our Deputy Chief Executive Fiona Ballantine Dykes at a fringe event - hosted by BACP in conjunction with UKCP and BPC - examining the mental health impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis. 

Dr Allin-Khan said: “Counsellors and psychotherapists do incredible jobs in increasingly challenging circumstances. 

Life changing

"Labour is fighting to ensure that mental health is given the proper share of investment it deserves. We desperately need to drive down waiting times and focus on a truly preventative approach to mental illness. 

“This cannot be achieved without the dedicated and life-changing work that counsellors and psychotherapists are doing across the country.” 

Fiona spoke about how counsellors and psychotherapists needed to be central to Labour’s mental health policy programme in addressing the long-term effects of the pandemic and the growing impact of the cost of living crisis. 

She said: “It’s clear tackling this (mental health) crisis will require public investment in much more accessible and higher quality mental health services across a range of settings that provide much earlier intervention.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan at the fringe event

Critical role

“Counsellors and psychotherapists have a critical role in providing these services.” 

Fiona said the 70,000 members of BACP, UKCP and BPC could provide more than 260,000 additional client hours per week if the funding was in place – and there were also issues of choice, access, and waiting times to be addressed.

Dr Allin-Khan told the event that prevention of mental ill health would be a key part of Labour’s policy programme, which she would outline in her keynote speech to the conference in Liverpool on Wednesday morning. 

She said that mental health support was not about apps and equipment, but about people and having the workforce available. 

A Labour government would grow the workforce by 8,500 new members of staff by the end of the first term in office to guarantee mental health treatment starting within a month, she said.

School counselling

Dr Allin-Khan said that Labour would have a counsellor in every school, matching a key ask of our policy campaigning. She added that Labour would also put an open-access hub in communities, another initiative that we’ve campaigned for. 

Dr Allin-Khan said that having counsellor support available for children when they needed it would help them fulfil their potential. 

Telling the audience that 18 million work days were lost in 2021 due to mental ill health, Dr Khan added: “It’s a false economy not to invest in mental health.” 

Other speakers included Hannah Davies, Health Inequalities Lead, the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA); Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation; Chris Thomas, IPPR Head of the Commission on Health and Prosperity, and Parth Patel, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, who chaired the session.

Third sector

During the Q&A, Fiona called for greater support for the third sector, saying community-based organisations were often best placed to meet local needs. 

“We’re talking about security of funding for the long term for the third sector in local communities so people can access the help that’s appropriate for them at the point when they need it rather than when it reaches a crisis,” she said. 

You can watch the full panel debate on the IPPR YouTube channel. 

Our Policy team will also be at the upcoming Conservative Party conference in Birmingham (Sunday 2 October to Wednesday 5 October).