Open letter to BACP Chair to reconsider positions on low income membership fees and policies

Dear Natalie Bailey (BACP Chair),

I am writing to you today, on behalf of Counsellors Together UK, to bring to your attention some pressing matters in regards to your financial policies both pre-pandemic and since lockdown. In this letter I propose 2 key amendments that can ease the financial strains facing counsellors, especially at this time.

As the weeks in lock-down roll on, it has become increasingly obvious that paying counsellors for their experience and expertise is a much lower priority than ever before. Although there are some positive actions being taken in the sector to try and reduce exploitation, these are being dwarfed by the pop-up volunteer schemes which even threaten the EAP work attached to the NHS and other organisations. This means that any moves by us or the BACP to keep paid work in EAPs fair, have limited impact if that work then dries up. We know that government provisions to help support self-employed people are woefully inadequate for the counselling profession.

When challenged on the continuation of fees, you said there would be no changes to this financial year but members would be spared the hardship of a fee increase for the new tax year. This was then amended to offer a 50% reduction on the main membership fees. This 50% fee reduction is available to ALL members experiencing financial hardship or low income of up to £16,000. It is not something you have implemented because of the pandemic.

In neither instance does this apply to the total membership fee, only the primary membership. If members choose to be divisional members to support their practice specialisms, these fees remain unchanged. This despite your video announcing free online access to the journals; a major component of the content available to those paying members now due to social distancing restrictions.

It has also been at this time that we, Counsellors Together UK, have become aware of an existing policy which has a detrimental financial impact on members. It is a policy which does not allow members to adjust for financial hardship during their membership year. 

This is a policy that will hit especially hard in the current climate. If the majority of members hit are nowhere near the threshold for no longer being able to receive financial support in the first place, then what they have available now is a threat to survival (many have zero income). This will disproportionally impact your most vulnerable members whom were already using foodbanks prior to the pandemic. Having to maintain the fee they cannot afford because BACP, you, have chosen not to apply a discount immediately is simply unacceptable at any time but particularly right now when the ability to pick up paid work in ANY industry is more difficult than ever.

What are we asking the BACP (you) to do?

  1. Reconsider their position to deny members a fee break in a time of severe hardship.
  2. To reassess their discriminatory policies that hold counsellors in a cycle of poverty yet also beholden to the BACP to remain available for counselling work.

Why are we asking BACP to reconsider their position on stopping membership fees during lock-down?

First and foremost because they are financially able to do so. They have over £3,000,000 in free reserves; which amounts to more than the cost of giving a membership fee break.

Second, because whilst the majority of their members struggle to attain an income over £10,000 (bacp survey, 2014), the BACP have just secured a contract with EAP, Health Assured, to provide telephone support using accredited BACP members. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations announced this on 1st April 2020. Good for the 20% of BACP members who are actually accredited, but opportunities remain limited for the rest of the membership.

Third, how do the BACP expect members to even afford the reduced fee option of 50% reduction if they have zero income? Not all members are eligible for Universal Credit and the BACP need to acknowledge this. How are the BACP going to support these members? 

Last month, Maria Albertsen launched a petition on behalf of Counsellors Together UK to temporarily suspend fees and we will be continuing to push this across all of our platforms. The petition can be found here:

What would the policy change look like?

This policy change would allow members to have a discount applied at any point in their membership year. As is standard across the debt management industry, these memberships could be adjusted to be reassessed more frequently; commonly this would be every 3 months and this would mean that BACP could raise fees as soon as the member no longer qualifies for that rate of reduction.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these proposals.


Tara Shennan

Project Manager, Counsellors’ Together UK