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Letter #1, from Andy Rogers to The BACP journal Therapy Today December 2005 Letter #2

Dear Editor,

The impression I’ve had from the BACP executive’s communications on the subject, primarily through this journal, is that statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy is an inevitability, which in turn means that members of BACP should apply for accreditation as soon as possible. Despite the concerns of a portion of its membership, including myself, the position of the executive seems to have been that this inevitability should be embraced and worked with rather than resisted.

As far back as March 2001, CPJ and Therapy Today editor Sarah Browne – in her lead article and cover story ‘Regulation: coming soon’ – implored us to ‘Get accredited…apply for accreditation now’ (p. 5) because, she claimed, regulation might be coming as soon as 2003 (p. 4). In case you were in any doubt as to the seriousness of this imminent prospect, Sally Aldridge (then Head of Accreditation, now Head of Professional Standards) is quoted in the article as saying, ‘if you haven’t hit the standard you won’t be able to practise’ (p. 5). But to put our minds at rest, Deputy Chief Executive Alan Jamieson re-assured: ‘Regulation can only benefit counselling and psychotherapy.’ (p. 4)

I was interested to read, then, that nearly five years later, Alan Jamieson wrote on 16th August to Andrew Foster at the Department of Health (source: Ipnosis 20, p. 27): ‘It seems…that if the purpose of regulation is to better protect the public, statutory regulation of all non-medical professions and support workers may not be the most cost effective or efficient way to achieve this.’ He continues, ‘Given that there appears to be little evidence to support [the] assumption [that statutory regulation ensures public protection], we would be interested to explore that premise further, adding that the protection of a title, which is the main means by which statutory regulation operates, is proven to be ineffective … Strengthened voluntary self-regulation, with the support of robust conduct procedures and better public education are a better and cheaper way forward.’

Given that the critics of statutory regulation (SR) have long argued this very point, that there’s ‘little evidence’ to suggest it would achieve its primary aim (protection of the public), and given that such an insight can’t have been new to anyone considering the issues around this subject – as we assume Alan Jamieson has been – why has he and the rest of the BACP executive not resisted the move to SR sooner? I also wonder why there was no mention of this apparent u-turn in Laurie Clarke’s ‘progress update’ in September’s Therapy Today (p. 24 – 25). In recent communications it’s as if the debate about the rights and wrongs of regulation has evaporated – there are only meetings, reports, planning, consultations etc. Processes and politics but no content.

In light of Jamieson’s letter and also COSCA Chief Executive Brian Magee’s remarks recently that, ‘If the mood of the last London meeting [of the much-discussed ‘liaison group’] was anything to go by, there now seems to be a shift…away from statutory regulation itself’ (source: Ipnosis 20 and www.talkingcure.co.uk/reg) is anyone willing to apologise for or even acknowledge the erroneous message BACP has been so keen to communicate (sometimes implicitly) through its (our!) journal, that we should accept regulation because it is inevitable and a positive development with regard to accountability and public protection? They might also like to apologise to those members who have felt pressured (bullied?) into applying for accreditation when it was not something they particularly wanted to do.

As a long suffering member who has felt alienated by the executive’s apparent persistence in pursuing and promoting rather than questioning and resisting the prospect of regulation, I would greatly appreciate some clarity on all this. Perhaps Jamieson is ‘off-message’ in his letter? Whatever, I’d like to know exactly what my ‘representatives’ are saying on my and my fellow members behalf and what the new official line is. Doesn’t anyone else?

Andy Rogers

Counsellor in further education

Ipnosis is edited, maintained and © Denis Postle 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
May 29 2006

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