UKCP hosts Shadow Mental Health Minister at Labour Conference

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

UKCP Policy and Public Affairs Manager

Published: 21 October 2022

For our latest position see our update on conversion therapy page. 

Martin Bell, BACP; Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP; Adam Jones, UKCP Policy and Public Affairs Manager; Ellen Dunn, UKCP Senior Research and Policy Officer.

Martin Bell, BACP; Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP; Adam Jones, UKCP Policy and Public Affairs Manager; Ellen Dunn, UKCP Senior Research and Policy Officer.

It has been a tumultuous few months in UK politics, with domestic and global factors contributing to an ever-changing policy landscape. The UK will soon have its third Prime Minister since June and the country faces a period of economic instability that is sadly exacerbating the already spiralling cost of living. This kind of turmoil can create anxiety among the population at any time, but the recent period has been notable for the many direct impacts of political decisions on people’s quality of life – with the associated impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Despite the upheaval, the UKCP policy team has continued unabated in our mission to advocate for the profession and call for increased access to psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic counselling. And this year’s party conference season offered us a chance to make our case to an audience of policymakers.

Two pandemic-hit autumns had passed since our previous conference outing – our event at the 2019 Conservative conference – but we were glad to be back this year, hosting a joint event with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and our sister organisations BACP and BPC at Labour’s conference in Liverpool.

The conference was a wonderful opportunity to engage with Labour’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, who headlined the speakers at our fringe event.

The event, which you can watch here, culminated in a brilliant discussion about the huge social and economic value of investing in mental health – a message that will be vital to push in the trying months ahead – as well as the critical role psychotherapy plays in improving mental health, and the need to replicate the lessons learned from the therapeutic space across wider social settings. It was fantastic to see so many organisations represented at our event in agreement over these issues, and we hope our collective voice will be too loud for policymakers to ignore.

We were glad to spend time with the Shadow Cabinet Minister amidst her busy conference schedule. With Labour committing to adding 8,500 new mental health staff to the public sector workforce by the end of a first term in office, it was vital to highlight the key role that psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic counselling will need to play as part of that expansion.

Importantly, Dr Rosena also discussed Labour’s willingness to invest in order to reap the long term social and economic benefits of improved mental health – such as better relationships, improved physical health, greater productivity, and countless others. While this may be self-evident logic to therapists, governments have too often been reluctant to commit funding when the cost benefit may take years to be fully realised, with taxpayer savings spread across different departments distorting their true overall value.

The conference also offered us the chance to engage with other parliamentarians, local councillors and a range of third sector partners – including fellow mental health organisations such as Mind, Young Minds, Samaritans, the Mental Health Foundation, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Psychological Society. Our close ties with these organisations will be critical to amplifying the psychotherapeutic voice to policymakers over the coming months.

While the polls show the growing possibility of a change in government at the next election, there has also been no shortage of change within the current government. This led to the appointment last month of a new Mental Health Minister – Dr Caroline Johnson MP – who we have written to alongside BACP and BPC offering to support the Department of Health and Social Care in tackling the growing mental health challenges we face in the wake of the pandemic and rising cost of living. With another change in Prime Minister on its way, we will closely monitor any further Ministerial changes and, if necessary, write again.

The churn of administrations is not conducive to a smooth policymaking process. Nevertheless, there are still big decisions to be made before the next General Election about government spending and the progress of legislation such as the Health and Care Bill, reform of the Mental Health Act and a ban on conversion therapy. Whoever is in charge, we will continue to seek to bring the psychotherapeutic voice to key decisionmakers so that the wonderful work of our members is at the forefront of any strategy to improve the nation’s mental health.

  • Policy and research

Find a therapist near you