Letter for your local MP

For UK therapists only

Hi there, thank you for taking an interest in helping us with this important campaign. Please use the template below to email your local MP to raise awareness of both counsellor exploitation and our current campaign asking the UK government to place a qualified counsellor in every UK school.

Please don’t worry about other members from your own constituency sending your MP the same letter. MPs take notice of numbers so it is still important to us that you send it. I would like to suggest that you make the beginning and the end of the letter personal to you, to make it your own.

I’d also like to suggest that you send this letter via email as it contains links to the campaign we are trying to raise awareness of. You will need to read the email in full and edit out certain parts before you do send.

If you have any questions about any of this then please do get in touch. We would also love to hear about any responses you may receive, which you can email to us via this site or come and share in our Facebook group here.

Thank you

Maria

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YOUR CONTACT DETAILS [include your full address and telephone number or your MP will reject the letter – they need to check you are in their constituency]

DATE

Dear [MPs full title]

My name is [INSERT NAME]. I am a member of your local constituency and I am also a qualified/trainee counsellor [delete as appropriate] and an active member of the campaign group Counsellors Together UK (www.ukcounsellors.co.uk).

I would like to raise two concerns I have. Firstly, the mental health needs of our children and young people and secondly, counsellor exploitation.

Children and young people [bold]

As you will be aware in the UK we are in the midst of a mental health crisis, which is affecting many of our children and young people. According to the Department for Education (DfE), 1 in 10 (850,000) children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition. You will also be aware that thousands of young people are not getting their needs met, often having to wait 13 weeks for an appointment when they are in crisis (suicidal) and that 1/3 of the referrals made to CAMHs by schools are rejected. This is simply not good enough.

Scotland plans to introduce 350 counsellors to work in secondary schools over four years and are investing a total of £250 million to do so. This is excellent progress and an example the rest of the UK should be following. However, we want these individuals to be qualified counsellors who are experienced in working with children and young people, rather than trainees or volunteers. The government needs to invest in qualified, properly paid counsellors.

[Scotland only] I was wondering if you could tell me how many of the 350 school counsellors you mention will be working as volunteers? I ask because I’m not sure if you are aware but there is a huge problem in the UK today where counsellors are being exploited by being expected and encouraged to work for free?

[UK only] I am concerned about how many of these counsellors will be expected to work for free. I ask because I’m not sure if you are aware but there is a huge problem in the UK today where counsellors are being exploited by being expected and encouraged to work for free?

In response to the failure of the government to provide adequate mental health care, the recent government green paper includes 3 core proposals, which are;

  1. To incentivise and support all schools and colleges to identify and train a Designated Senior Lead for mental health.
  2. To fund new Mental Health Support Teams, which will be supervised by NHS children and young people’s mental health staff.
  3. To pilot a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

This is an unnecessary and (overtly) bureaucratic response. The focus should be on real therapeutic intervention. In 2016 the government stated they “expected all schools to provide counselling services for their pupils,” taken from; Department for Education (2016) Counselling in Schools: a blueprint for the future. If the government’s research into this subject has shown that counselling in schools is what is necessary, why is this not a core proposal?

What is required are qualified counsellors who can provide therapy and who will work with the existing school infrastructure, such as a safeguarding team, to improve and then maintain a child’s well-being; throughout their school career.

On the basis of this, and for what we feel is the right solution to this ongoing and worsening crisis, Counsellors Together UK has recently launched an online campaign via change.org

to ask the UK government to provide counselling in all UK schools. You can view our campaign here:  https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-make-it-mandatory-for-every-uk-school-to-provide-counselling-for-children-and-young-people

I hope you will take the time to read the petition and offer your thoughts.

Calling an end to counsellor exploitation [bold]

When a member of the group (Counsellor Together UK) posted online that a fellow counsellor was needing to use a food bank to feed her children, it became apparent that a lot of counsellors are living in poverty and this is because they aren’t being paid for the work that they do.

The pattern is this;

  1. Counsellors pay thousands of pounds to train and often end up in debt.
    2. While training, they usually have to complete at least 100 hours of face to face clinical work. This is usually delivered via a trainee placement.
    3. Placement providers including private businesses, NHS, schools, Charities, etc use trainees to deliver their counselling services.
    4. Once a trainee finishes their placement there is no paid work for them as all of the services continue to run on trainee volunteers, they literally kick out the counsellors and ’employ’ another trainee.
    5. Many charities operate in this way and they pay ALL staff except the actual counsellors delivering the service.
    6. There are some paid jobs, but employers almost always ask for counsellors to be accredited with a profession body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) for example, otherwise their application is rejected.
    7. BACP requires around 450 hours, post qualification, for accreditation.
    8. Charities and organisations then promote using qualified counsellors as volunteers as a way for them to ‘gain hours towards accreditation’ as if they are doing us a favour! This is after we have qualified and been deemed fit to practice.
    9. This often means that post qualification counsellors then need to work an extra 3-5 years voluntary part time around other work so they can become accredited and actually be in a position to apply for jobs!
    10. Places such as the BACP make an extortionate amount of money from the accreditation processes. Colleges take on trainees working alongside these professional bodies and don’t prepare students for this reality but gain money from students for training with them. Charities and people who use volunteers in this explorative way often pay other staff huge salaries while the counsellors work for free. We are the ones missing out every step of the way!

Counsellors Together UK, a growing group of over 3700 members, is trying to change this. No one, once qualified, should be expected to work for free and it doesn’t have to be this way.

In summary [bold]

Admin at Counsellors Together UK have personally set up and managed counselling services in schools and young people’s centres. It can be done by working in partnership with individual schools and it is often cheaper than going via a third party such as a charity to deliver a service based on using volunteers, the majority of the money can be paid to the counsellors delivering the work.

What we are seeing now is a generation of counsellors who are struggling to live and becoming too unwell to actually deliver the work. We can’t help others if we are running on nothing ourselves, and this includes financial remuneration for the work we do.

[Scotland only] Please can you consider what I have said and take a look at the plans for Scotland and check how many counsellors are being expected to work for free and how many of those working with vulnerable children and young people are unqualified and experienced enough to do so safely?

[UK] Please can you consider what I have said and offer any knowledge you have about the plans for Scotland and how many of the 350 counsellors employed there will be paid for their work?

[All] If you or anyone in your office would like to chat with myself or any of my counselling colleagues from Counsellors Together UK, we would be more than happy to meet up.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

[Your name]