The 2021 Senedd election provides an important opportunity to re-evaluate and reframe mental health support in Wales, coming at a critical time in the pandemic, and as Welsh Government’s flagship Together for Mental Health strategy comes to an end.
Over the past few weeks the parties in Wales have published their manifestos and we’re pleased to see such strong alignment between them and our own manifesto recommendations, with universal support for increased investment in psychological therapies and counselling, particularly to support people whose mental health has suffered most during the pandemic.
In line with our core manifesto ask, the Welsh Labour Party, will prioritise investment in mental health services to help with the long-term recovery from Covid 19. This includes important investment in mental health workforce, with the objective to “train more people to provide early support with mental wellbeing and resilience”. They will prioritise service redesign to promote a “no-wrong-door approach to mental health support for all”.
Children and young adults
Reflecting our call for greater support for children and young adults disproportionality affected by the ongoing pandemic, Welsh Labour have also pledged to build on their “whole-school” approach to support young people in developing skills and emotional resilience. They also plan to further invest in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to meet growing referral numbers and reduce waiting times.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have an overall objective to “improve access and choice in psychological therapies” as part of a new “24/7 mental health crisis care system”. Within this offer they pledge to invest in free counselling for couples, echoing our manifesto ask to address the impact Covid 19 measures have had on relationships and particularly on families with lower incomes.
Further aligning with our manifesto asks, they’ve promised to improve access to a wide range of counselling and therapies for people experiencing complex grief, to address the growing need brought about by the pandemic.
Importantly, they’ve acknowledged the economic and physical cost of mental health challenges in the workplace, and have pledged to ensure that “staff have the access to support and workplace counselling they need”, which was also a BACP recommendation. The additional funding for these measures would be supported by a proposed increase in the share of funding of all NHS spend to 13% by 2028.
Plaid Cymru have pledged to ensure mental and emotional health becomes “woven into the core” of health practices in Wales.
Echoing our manifesto ask, Plaid aim to increase the availability of talking therapies, including the provision of “counselling across all primary care settings”, and access to CBT.
Invest in counselling
They’ve pledged to ensure that health and social care staff have access to the counselling and other support services they need. Plaid will also invest in counselling services to support victims and survivors to ensure they have access to “well-funded counselling services”.
Plaid also pledge to provide more support to children and young people through a network of “Youth Wellbeing Centres” in towns across Wales. Moreover, Plaid have pledged to increase the resources allocated to mental and physical health “year on year”, over the course of the next five years, again echoing our call for increased resources.
Reflecting our manifesto asks, the Welsh Conservatives have pledged to “urgently establish routes of support for people suffering with mental health problems as a result of the pandemic”, especially NHS staff, care workers and families who have experienced trauma from bereavement.
They’ve promised to increase spending on mental health and wellbeing services “each and every year” of the next Parliament, as well as establishing and publishing targets on waiting times for mental health treatment. This will be underpinned by “a fundamental review of mental health services” through a Commission on Mental Health, with service users, families, professionals and the charity sector.
Mental health support
The Green Party in Wales have also prioritised mental health support for children and young people. They’ve pledged to develop a community model of health care which uses “counsellors and youth workers to support children at risk of drug, sexual exploitation, homelessness and alcohol abuse”.
The Greens are the only party to identify the need to legislate to ban Conversion Therapy across Wales as well as lobbying for a ban across the UK.
UKIP have pledged to improve mental health services by supporting the provision for talking therapies within 28 days of referral, a BACP recommendation, as well as incentivising local authorities to reverse cuts in community mental health services. This would help address our ongoing concern that many people in Wales are still waiting too long to get the treatment they need.
UKIP also pledge to charge one elected member of each local health board to “champion mental health provision”.
We’re pleased to see such positive recognition from the majority of the parties in Wales of the importance of investing in counselling and psychotherapy, and hope these promises transpire into much-needed investment.
This year’s Senedd election will take place on Thursday 6 May.
We know that this election is going to be different, but encourage our members to share our manifesto with their networks, and highlight our recommendations to candidates at online forums or virtual hustings events.
And if you’re on social media, use the hashtag #StandupForCounselling to join in the conversation and see what fellow members are saying.
Championing counselling and psychotherapy in the Welsh elections
Our manifesto aims to meet the mental health challenges of the pandemic
A counsellor in every school: This is the impact it has made in Wales
Watch our members in Wales talk about how statutory provision of school-based counselling has benefited young people
Guidance and resources for members