With a new Prime Minister in Number 10, current polls predicting a possible change to the party of Government, and a backdrop of growing policy challenges, the BACP Policy Team made a robust case for counselling and psychotherapy in-person at the 2022 UK Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.
The team held meetings and attended fringe events, speaking with key decision makers around a range of topics in mental health, with recurring themes focusing on the importance of counselling in prevention, an improvement in data sharing and the economic case for investment in mental health support.
Our well-attended event at the Labour Party Conference, held in partnership with UKCP, BPC and IPPR, discussed the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of the nation. This looked at how mental health services, including counsellors and psychotherapists, can be deployed to help steer the nation through such challenging times. The panel included our Deputy CEO Fiona Ballantine-Dykes, and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the Shadow Mental Health Minister, who endorsed the crucial work of our members following the event, stating: "It has been wonderful to join BACP at the Labour Party Conference for an incredibly insightful event alongside the IPPR. Counsellors and psychotherapists do incredible jobs, in increasingly challenging circumstances.”
The Policy Team will continue to collaborate closely with the Shadow Mental Health Minister and the wider Labour Party in order to keep pressure on the current Government and refine future policymaking.
The following week, the team attended the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, having conversations with representatives from charities such as Mind and the Samaritans, as well as policymakers including the Conservative Mental Health Group and the Secretary of State for Health, Therese Coffey. It was also a privilege to join BACP's Vice President Julia Samuel who chaired a session on the work of the UK Commission on Bereavement, where she is a commissioner.
While we were pleased to see mental health at the forefront of many agendas and fringe events, concerns remain over the lack of reference from the new Government to the previously consulted upon 10 Year Mental Health Plan and Health Disparities White Paper. Until addressed, it’s unclear if mental health will take a back seat to the race for tax cuts. Nevertheless, the Policy Team will continue to challenge the Government and work to ensure that the voice of counselling and psychotherapy is resoundingly heard and included within future policy decisions.
Our attendance at the Party Conferences this year was extremely beneficial to our public affairs work and cemented the mental health sector as a united front in the eyes of politicians and decision-makers.
We were pleased to note at both conferences that there’s an increased focus on prevention and the economic case for investing in mental health, which we at BACP already know to be extremely convincing.
However, with the devastating impacts of the pandemic still lingering in the national conscience, and the full extent of the cost of living crisis still yet to be realised, there’s never been a better time for both main parties to commit to a sustained investment in mental health services, including counselling and psychotherapy, to meet the growing demand for mental health support throughout this term.