In 2017 members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) submitted a resolution asking BACP to stop advertising positions for volunteer counsellors in their Therapy Today magazine. The resolution was overwhelmingly supported by the membership and passed. Brilliant, we thought.
That was until July 2018 when the BACP sent an email to their members informing them that the AGM member resolution process had changed.
In 2017 the process required any BACP member who wished to submit a resolution to do so with the support of a seconder. These two people then had to secure support from 25 other members and submit all signatures, along with the resolution to BACP for it to then go before the AGM.
The subsequent changes in July 2018 meant that any resolution still had to have a proposer and a seconder, but that to gain enough support the proposed resolution now had to gain 5% of total membership votes. This meant that any resolution now needed to get 2383 votes to move to the AGM voting stage. That was a staggering 2358 more votes than what was required in the previous year.
However, during the voting process members became aware of another change BACP had made. BACP now openly told members on the actual ballot paper NOT to vote in support of any resolutions that The Board themselves did not support.
In 2018, Tara Shennan, who seconded a resolution regarding the BACP Accreditation process, requested that BACP told us how many individual members had voted that year. We found out that the total number of individual members who voted in 2018 was 1520. This meant that Tara’s resolution with 1451 votes was not only the highest number of votes on record and had secured more than 90% of votes cast with only 69 people not voting to support it, still failed. This was when found out that in the entire history of BACP voting, they had never achieved a 5% member turn out to vote. BACP set the new 5% target knowing this.
Moving ahead to 2019, a resolution asking the BACP to scrap SCoPEd was submitted by Erin Stevens and Tara Shennan. This time there was a record high number of 2552 votes cast, equating to 5.1% of the BACP membership. In total 1780 people voted in support of the scrap SCoPEd resolution, and 772 people did not vote for it, or didn’t vote against it. This means that, although the scrap SCoPEd resolution gained 69.58% of the total number of votes, again it was denied an opportunity to make it to the next stage of voting at the AGM.
And now in 2020 we have seen the same issues rise again, despite complaints made by members over the last 3 years (see link at end for CTUK Official complaint).
However, in 2020 not only would members struggle to have any resolution passed to the actual AGM voting stage but several resolutions were also rejected. This year I as Proposer and Tara Shennan as Seconder submitted a resolution asking for BACP members to be allowed a democratic vote on the SCoPEd project, this was rejected because The Board felt,
“….this resolution was not in the best interests of BACP and would therefore not be put forward to the members for the following reasons:
• the voting criteria you suggested for future iterations of the framework stipulated that the total level of engagement must be at least 50% of the total membership at the time of the vote. BACP cannot ensure such a high level of membership engagement and as such this risks the creation of a stalemate whereby the project is unable to proceed in any direction.
• Your request that BACP does not comment on how members may decide to vote is not something we are able to comply with. As a Board, we are in support of the project and, as is standard practice with our resolutions process, we reserve the right to share this view with members.
• Similarly, your request that BACP suspends any promotion of the project while the resolution is voted on is not something we are able to comply with. We have a schedule of communication activity planned in collaboration with our partners, which is designed to inform and engage members and we believe it is in the best interests of our members that we continue with this work.”
I wrote back to BACP to let them know that they had misread our resolution as we didn’t in fact ask for them suspend promotion of the project during the resolution process, but at a point in the future if the resolution had been successful and members were allowed to have a democratic vote on it – this is when we wanted their promotion suspended. However, they informed me that even with this new knowledge they still wouldn’t have upheld it. You can read the full SCoPEd resolution we submitted below. You should also know that at no point did BACP contact either myself as proposer or Tara as seconder to let us know that the resolution would be rejected and allow us time to change it, as they done so with another resolution which was accepted. Also note what BACP stated above, “BACP cannot ensure such a high level of membership engagement” – this is an interesting statement in itself, which I will let you draw your own conclusions about!
However, we did have one resolution accepted this year, and let’s look at what happened with that. This year I seconded a resolution made by Tara Shenna which asked for the accreditation process to become free for all members. This would mean no application fees and no increase in membership fees for being an accredited member of the BACP. Despite being introduced to the voting process a week later than all the other resolutions and motions, the resolution still managed to earn 2543 votes (4.72%). Sadly, this meant it fell 0.28% short of the 5% required to go through to a second vote. Yet again, our resolution received the highest number of votes of any resolution in the history of BACP voting, and it still didn’t pass. And not only this but BACP managed to lose the resolution which meant by the time this was resolved, over 1000 members had already voted and our resolution wasn’t put to vote until exactly a week after the process had opened. We feel sure that if we had not lose this week, and possibly 1000 votes, our resolution would have passed. However, BACP said they did email those 1000 members again to try and make up for the lost week, but after all, who opens an email to vote once they’ve already done so?
As members we are angry by all of the above, not least because these are issues which many members have raised with BACP over the last three years and which are clearly not being addressed. For example, one of the biggest issues is that BACP do not run a good enough marketing campaign. Even in n 2019 members were not encouraged to vote. Firstly, the email to vote was sent directly from Andrew Reeves the then Chair of BACP. The email wasn’t from BACP so people didn’t look out for it and it also went into other members junk mail. Other members also didn’t receive any email at all and were forced to ring BACP and ask for their emails to be sent to them. At no other point did BACP email members and ask them to vote. The voting system was then closed a day early and several of the final hours (approx. 10-12) of voting were lost. The again this year, even on the last day of voting, BACP members were telling us they didn’t realise that the date to vote for the missed resolution had been extended, and even still at that stage they hadn’t received an email to vote. Communication from BACP with members during this time was also scarce with only a handful of emails being sent out and no robust public promotion campaign actively encouraging members to engage with the process. This We also feel that BACP should refrain from telling members how to vote and allow members to reach their own conclusions. BACP’s ability to not only reach but to influence its members far outweighs that of the proposer and seconder. We do not have access to members to ask them to vote for us, or to argue the validity of our resolution as questions are raised, all we have available to us is the use of social media, and we will never reach the majority of the membership that way. Yet BACP can email members directly and tell them how to vote. The power imbalance in huge and feels somewhat unfair.
In conclusion, if we look at the historical voting figures within the BACP resolutions process, they indicate that 5% is unattainable. That obviously means it is an unfair process, and not only does it stop members from having their say, it impacts our clients too.
In the last three years we have seen a dramatic increase in the total number of BACP members voting. However, this is NOT due to BACP or their campaigning strategies, which are practically non existent, but due to organisations such as CTUK, Therapists Connect and PCSR, etc. who have taken hours out of their own busy schedules to promote members rights and encourage them to vote. But it is BACP who should be doing this work, or paying such organisations to help them increase engagement, as with over £5.5 million in reserves (£3.5 approx. free reserves) they can certainly afford to do so.
I want to end by acknowledging that what we have witnessed is an uprise in therapists who are social activists. Therapists who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet, despite the rage, anger, abuse, silence, and dismissal which is often aimed at us from those who find our work uncomfortable. These therapists have stepped up because of their belief in and for the rights of therapists, our clients and the profession we hold so close to our hearts. We want you to know that we will never be silenced, not by a flawed supposed democratic process or by whichever means you may try to take away our voices. We are here. And we intend to stay. And we intend to be loud.
Lastly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all who stand beside us, including all CTUK members, the members of the Partners for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the many individuals who walk alongside us. We are in this together, and together we are strong. Together we keep going, and that we will.
With massive respect and in solidarity.
Maria Albertsen on behalf of CTUK
2020 Proposed SCoPEd resolution (rejected by BACP)
SUMMARY: Hold a democratic vote on BACP’s involvement in SCoPEd and its development. To ask members:
1. ‘Do you want BACP’s involvement in the SCoPEd project to continue?’
2. If yes, should the framework continue in its current format?
Aim: to give members a voice in the direction of BACP.
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT: All BACP members, including student and retired members, are asked the following 2 questions:
1. ‘Do you want BACP’s involvement in the SCoPEd project to continue?’
2. If yes, should the framework continue in its current format?
Should the resolution be passed, BACP will continue to give members a democratic vote on all future iterations of the framework. This vote will ask members if they are happy with the iteration presented to them and should meet the same voting criteria listed below.
• Ballot responses should be in a ‘yes or no’ format allowing for a true reflection of voter wishes. The level of total engagement must be at least 50% of the total membership at the time of the vote. A majority vote will be upheld. An independent organisation are required to carry out the voting process.
• The BACP must not write on the ballot page to indicate how they feel members should vote nor interfere with the voting page in any way as to confuse members about how, when or where they should vote.
• BACP should refrain from promoting the SCoPEd framework during the voting period
Why we propose this resolution
In the first instance, there was no proper consultation sought before the project nor at its first consultation point. Only at the second consultation have members been asked if they understand the project, its aims and whether they support the proposed framework. If members do not support the framework there is no reassurance that this will be taken on board and actioned.
Second, this framework is being posited as the mapping of the profession and as such impacts how counsellors are seen now and in the future. It is therefore imperative that members are given a clear opportunity to have their voice heard after a reasonable amount of time has been given to fully digest the information within the framework and the key critiques of it.
Third, of those key critiques, the primary concern is the lack of transparency presented to members of the organising membership bodies and the profession at large. But, primarily, a lack of transparency as to why BACP members have been placed at the bottom of a hierarchy which elevates the members of the UKCP and BPC.
At the point of this resolution, thousands of pounds have been spent on a project the SCoPEd team have not confirmed its members want. We believe that any project that impacts the entirety of its membership and the profession as a whole should be subject to a fully democratic vote.
This is unclear as there has been no information provided by the SCoPEd team (despite requests for this information) about the financial costs thus far. If members vote against the continuation of the SCoPEd project, the potential losses will be limited to funds already spent on its development. We are not aware of any future financial implications.
CTUK Response to the BACP ‘scrap SCoPEd’ members’ resolution result, 2019: https://ukcounsellors.co.uk/ctuk-response-to-the-bacp-scrap-scoped-members-resolution-result-2019/
CTUK complaint to BACP regarding the resolutions process – https://ukcounsellors.co.uk/official-complaint-against-bacp-for-not-consulting-members-about-changing-the-resolution-and-agm-voting-process/