Today (21.3.18) members of Psychologists for Social Change joined a demonstration with Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy and other mental health activists including Mental Health Resistance Network outside the New Savoy Conference on Psychological Therapies in the NHS. This is the annual conference for organisations involved in delivering IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies).
We need to hold politicians and NHS leaders to account on issues the conference claims to address like "the impact of austerity on mental health" and "addressing issues of morale capacity and funding" in the psychological therapies workforce. These are important issues that the conference says will be debated. We are worried that the wide range of professional bodies attending the conference may not prioritise the interests of the people who use services and low paid IAPT therapists working within a culture of targets.
Is it likely that these debates will lead to real change given current government priorities? How will our "healthcare leaders exert real pressure" on this government? We hope they will, but given the lack of policy change in response to UN condemnation of the impact of the Department for Work and Pensions benefit cuts on disabled people, and recent findings on IAPT recovery rates and the relationship to levels of deprivation, this seems unlikely. We are not sure the approach of professional bodies attending and implicitly endorsing what look set to be inadequate solutions that miss the social determinants of distress will help.
We call on professional bodies and healthcare leaders to take seriously their responsibilities to service users and therapists, and mount some real resistance to damaging government policies that leave open individualised explanations of distress and ignore the psychological impact of austerity.
See the Free Psychotherapy Network website for more information on their criticisms of the conference: https://freepsychotherapynetwork.com/2018/02/25/demo-at-new-savoy-conference-21st-march-2018/
Jay Watt's chapter 'IAPT and the Ideal Image' is also useful background reading: