We’ve called on the government and policy makers in London to invest in counselling and psychotherapy to help tackle the chronic, wide-ranging, and long-lasting mental health issues of COVID-19.
We told the Minister and Shadow Minister for Mental Health that our highly-skilled and qualified members are ready now to support communities in the capital in their recovery from the pandemic.
Our Chair Natalie Bailey, speaking at our online roundtable Building Back Better Mental Health in London, which was attended by hundreds of our London-based members, said people right across society have been impacted by the pandemic.
“It’s affected young people, older people, people working in the NHS and education, blue light services and people affected by bereavement, poverty and debt,” she said.
“Counselling and psychotherapy is part of the solution to a major issue. It’s critical to the recovery from the pandemic.
“More funding for counselling will help tackle some of the deep-rooted inequalities. Investment ensures appropriate, culturally sensitive, and accessible choice before the problem escalates.
“And we have 61,000 members who can contribute to that solution.”
Hosted by Sir Norman Lamb, our roundtable event, held in partnership with Mind in London, focused on the impact of COVID-19 and how to respond to the chronic, wide-ranging, and long-lasting mental health issues it’s thrown up.
Speakers included Mental Health Minister Gillian Keegan; Shadow Mental Health Minister Rosena Allin-Khan; Marie Gabriel, Chair of NE London ICS; Lynette Charles, Chair of Mind in London; Navdeep Jaichand, of Mind in London’s Lived Experience Panel; Councillor Georgia Gould, Joint Chair of the London Recovery Board; and Dr Tom Coffey, Mayoral Advisor on Mental Health; as well as Natalie and our Chief Executive Dr Hadyn Williams.
Hadyn told the roundtable that counselling was of equal quality as IAPT and more flexible, as he made the case for counselling and psychotherapy to play a bigger part in the mental health recovery of people and communities.
Hadyn said: “We’d like to see much greater investment to ensure fully-funded and appropriate counselling and psychotherapy which utilises the capacity of our trained workforce. We’d like to see this across all settings including London’s schools and colleges, across our NHS and through community settings.
“There’s clearly a role for all tiers of government to get behind this ambition and we’re keen to work with all partners to make this happen.
“Investing in life-changing mental health services is critical to our recovery and will deliver extensive cost-saving benefits to national and local government budgets as well as tackling the deep-rooted inequalities that hold so many of our fellow citizens back.”
Ms Keegan thanked our members for their “crucial work in supporting people's mental health” during the pandemic.
She drew attention to the government’s COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan which aims to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the mental health impacts of the pandemic.
“It is backed by additional £500m to make sure we have the right support in place and that will go into address waiting times, and also give people the mental health support they need, plus investment in the workforce.”
She said £110m was being used to expand adult mental health services, including talking and psychological therapies.
“Plus, we've got £111 million pounds to grow the workforce to make sure we deliver these ambitious commitments.”
She added: “The fact is that because demand is so high in the aftermath of the pandemic, a lot of people struggle to get access to services and so we need to train more staff, particularly in ensuring early intervention.”
Shadow Mental Health Minister Rosena Allin-Khan, who is also a frontline NHS worker, also thanked our members for their work during the pandemic, saying: “I know the power and value of the work you’ve been doing throughout my entire career, but especially over the last two years.”
Rosena said Labour’s plan for mental health would revolve around the workforce.
“It's not that fancy machines in your practice, it's about people,” she said. “People that care, people that are supported, people that are well trained.
“That’s why we're saying that a huge priority for us, were we to win the next General Election, is to train 8,500 extra mental health staff, guaranteeing mental health treatment for all who need it within a month.”
She added that Labour would put an open-access hub in communities across England and provide “counsellors in every school”.
Hadyn challenged plans by both the Government and the Opposition to create new roles when we already have a highly-skilled, trained, and available workforce.
Calling for more paid opportunities for qualified counsellors and psychotherapists, Hadyn said: “Workforce expansion is cited as one of the biggest barriers to delivering the expansion of mental health services as set out in the NHS long term plan.
“The NHS often overlooks the highly qualified, experienced, skilled counselling and psychotherapy that already exists and doesn't need to be trained up.
“They currently face barrier after barrier with trying to enter the NHS workforce, so we'd like to see an enhancement of the role of counselling and psychotherapy within the NHS, which better uses our trained workforce.
“We also call for a universal rights to access and a universal right choice of psychological therapies enshrined in the NHS constitution.”
He added: “IAPT has a significant role to play but isn’t the only solution.”
Influencing decision makers
We work with with politicians and decision makers from all four nations to help them understand the positive changes that counselling can make to people's lives.
How to get therapy
Where and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy, including free and paid for services
How to use our online therapist directory to search for a counsellor or psychotherapist by location, services or specialisms