As we start another challenging period of national lockdowns across the UK, we’re stepping up the work on our Covid-19 campaign to fight for the profession and ensure the most vulnerable are given access to counselling and psychotherapy across the four nations.

Our engagement to date has brought mixed fortunes. We moved rapidly during the first lockdown to bring together an extensive partnership of 27 key organisations comprising professional bodies, campaign groups, large providers and think tanks to amplify our voice to secure change.

This has been successful in helping influence each of the governments to drive forward clear action plans to ensure mental health support is central to the Covid-19 response and promotes greater awareness of available support.

We’ve also had significant success in securing support from the shadow frontbench teams in the UK Parliament and across all the governments and parties in the nations.

Positive action

While we’ve seen positive action across the nations, the biggest challenge we’ve faced has been with the UK Government itself.

As we enter possibly the most serious period of the pandemic, we remain frustrated that the UK Government is simply not listening to the counselling or mental health sector, despite the Prime Minister using mental health as a core rationale behind strengthening Covid-19 restrictions.

A freedom of information request by Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister, Dr Rosena Allin Khan MP, in November, revealed that ministers from the Department of Health had not met a single representative of the mental health sector throughout the pandemic.

Together with BPC and UKCP, we wrote to the Mental Health Minister, Nadine Dorries MP, on two occasions to request a meeting to help inform the Government’s mental health plan. Like many other organisations in the sector we have been ignored.

Plans lack ambition

As a result, their plans to support the mental health of the nation lack the ambition required to meet the needs of our most vulnerable people.

While we sympathise with the enormity of the challenge facing the Government to get on top of the pandemic, this is simply not good enough.

We’ll continue to make the case for the UK Government to use the skills and experience of our members by extending the narrow range of support beyond that offered through IAPT provision, in recognition of the size of the challenge people are facing.

This next phase of our campaign will focus on building greater support with officials within the Departments of Health and Education and to push for additional funding ahead of March’s budget settlement.

Joint influencing activity

We’ll also be engaging with our Covid-19 campaign partners to undertake joint influencing activity.  

In Scotland and Wales, we’re currently involved with a range of partners, including SAMH and Mind Cymru, and a number of political parties to help advise on manifesto commitments ahead of the Holyrood and Senedd elections in May.

These will of course reflect the objectives of our Covid-19 campaign.

In Northern Ireland we’ve been engaging closely with the Department of Health on the new Ten Year Mental Health Strategy and this also reflects the need to enhance access to counselling services to ensure high quality provision is in place across the nation.

Greater recognition and access

As we enter another challenging year of uncertainty, may I take this opportunity to thank all the members that have supported our campaign efforts over the past year and we look forward to working with you in 2021 to help fight for greater recognition and access to counselling and psychotherapy.

Your support is critical to our success.