Our call for government action on psychotherapy and counselling in wake of Covid-19 crisis

Below is our cross-organisation open letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Please click here to sign a petition in support of our key asks.

Dear Secretary of State,

We represent a large coalition of counselling and psychotherapy professional bodies, educators, service providers and individual professional therapists from across the United Kingdom. We are writing to offer our immediate support to the Government in tackling the mental health consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, as well as to urge you to take urgent measures to safeguard the livelihoods of therapists ahead of the challenging months to follow.

Together we provide a highly trained, professional and mobile workforce exceeding 100,000 who work at the forefront of the mental health sector across a range of modalities. We support hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable people, including older people, children and young people, and people living with long-term physical health conditions.

The role of our professional therapists is now more important than ever, as the nation struggles to come to terms with the mental health impact of changing work and family circumstances, financial insecurity, isolation, bereavement, societal breakdown and prolonged uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many counsellors and psychotherapists are already playing a vital role on the frontline of this epidemic, supporting vulnerable people, sometimes on a voluntary basis, including medical staff and other key workers who are struggling with their own mental health. Many counselling providers, private practitioners and charities have seen funding cuts and sessions drop as social isolating measures have come into force, reducing their ability to provide support.  As the crisis grows, the need for urgent therapeutic support will further increase and we wish to offer our full support to Government to ensure this need is met.

Counselling and psychotherapy will also be critical in the longer-term, in rebuilding our social fabric, helping to repair shattered communities and lives, and helping the nation return to normality.

We are wholly committed to supporting and advising Government through these challenging times. We urge you to consider the following proposals, designed to support your wider aims in steering the nation through this difficult moment.

1. Work with us to ensure there is a workforce to deliver a comprehensive mental health response to the Covid-19 crisis – while a full picture of the impact of this crisis may not emerge for some time, it is clear that the consequences for our nation’s mental health will be far-reaching. This requires an urgent response from the Government, to ensure increased demand is met with high quality care. We are here to help you deliver that support. Some psychotherapists and counsellors already provide vital frontline support, but this workforce can be scaled up substantially. Our highly qualified professionals are trained to support people through their fear, panic and trauma, and their vulnerability, loss and depression. They can play a vital role in meeting the increased demand for mental health care in the months to follow, and we urge you to work with us to make this a reality.

2. Tackle labour market barriers– our counsellors and psychotherapists can only work to support others if they themselves are supported. Many therapists are self-employed or work on zero hours contracts, meaning that they are not eligible for sick pay if ill or self-isolating, and will not receive any wages if the service is suspended or cancelled. Following the very positive support announced by the Chancellor for PAYE employees, we would like to see a similar package for self-employed workers in the form of a Temporary Income Protection Fund. We have added our voices to the campaign by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, to help close this gap and ensure our members are able to sustain their businesses and continue their vital work. We would also welcome the establishment of a business transformation grant to help ease the financial burden of moving from face-to-face to online working, and to ensure continuity of mental health support, especially for vulnerable people.

3. Signposting the public to the very best mental health support – given the anticipated surge in demand for mental health support, we are keen to partner with Government and others in the mental health sector on a high-profile campaign to ensure that key workers and members of the public are supported to access qualified therapists, through a dedicated page on the main Government Portal to signpost to PSA/HCPC accredited therapists and organisations. This would make it as easy as possible for people to easily find the support they need in one place. We would welcome further discussions on the practicalities of this proposal.

We hope to be able to work with you in the months ahead and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

  • Policy and research

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