Minutes of the 1st AGM on 1st April 2017


Present: Avigail Abarbanel, Joy Archer, Shelley Assiter, Richard Bagnall-Oakeley, Keith Barber, Viviane Carneiro, Jane Clements, Phil Cox, Jamie Crabb, Beth Glanville, Riva Joffe, Sasha Kaplin, Robbie Lockwood, Juliet Lyons, Kate O'Halloran, Andrew Price, Cashel Riordan, Andrew Samuels, Martin Sawers, Adrian Scott, Lon Teija, Nick Totton, Audrey West, Sue Winter

Apologies: Jeanette Bayliss, Deborah Berger, Amanda Bettison, Laura Fulcher, Deidre Haslam, Merryn Jones, Philippa Marx, Susie Orbach, Gavin Robinson, Polly Singer, Janet Tolan,

Morning AGM led by the Interim Committee

Nick Totton (Acting Chair)

Kate O’Halloran (Secretary/Administrator)

Richard Bagnall-Oakeley

Keith Barber

Jane Clements

Philip Cox

Philippa Marx

Andrew Price

Polly Singer

  1. The Interim Chair and Committee have presented a report for handover to the new, elected Committee at the AGM. The document contains suggestions, based on experience, of how the committee might function more effectively.

  2. Membership: a) There are now 316 members of PCU. The Committee have suggested a target of reaching 1000 members in the next year. We can encourage all current members to recruit from within their networks. b) A number of members left PCU following some difficult conversations on the google group.

  3. The Google Group a) A significant number of members left the Google group around a time of hostile conversations on the Google group. Possibility of the committee contacting people who have not renewed subscriptions to ask them why. We debated the possibility of strong disagreements on the Google group, with an awareness that for some, especially new-comers, the tone and number of messages can be overwhelming. b) Currently, 80 members have not signed up to the Google group. Some members prefer the Google group to the Ning for its immediacy. c) Do we need some ground rules for the Google group and discussion groups? Who makes the rules? The Committee is mindful of the discussions taking place, and the Chair has intervened where necessary. It is a difficult balance to offer a place to talk about vulnerabilities, where this can, at times become judgemental and angry. This has included attacks on the Committee. A wish for an honest, authentic and safe space. Possibility of general guidelines.

d) Views expressed that disagreement is should be expected on such groups and that this should be allowed.

  1. Google Group Announcements a) most are signed up to this – 2 have not. b) How can we give summaries about what we are doing for members without breaching confidentiality? (e.g. in cases of workplace support, complaints)

  2. Newsletter: The possibility of a newsletter, monthly, to go out on the Ning and Announcement Group

  3. Finances: a) Kate O’ Halloran gave the financial report that is accurate up to 9th March b) Most of the costs have been to pay the work that Kate O’’Halloran has been doing. Other costs are for publicity, marketing and the website logo. b) A specialist Bank for trade unions is used – Unity Trust Bank. c) Signatories will be changed over today. d) We can encourage Members to remember the Union in their wills.

The Report Given:

“From September 26th 2015 (The Big Issue Meeting where it was decided to set up a Union) to February 6th 2016 (official launch of PCU), we received £4, 807 in Supporters Donations. Following the launch on Feb 6th, the total subs paid by members, up to 9th March, has been £10,543. A further £380 came from donations to the December Conference, taking the total income over this period to £15,730.

Our expenses over this period have mostly been in wages paid for admin support (£10 per hour, weekly hours varying, between 7min and 12 max. Our budget allows for a maximum of 6 hrs per week per 100 members, which currently means a possible maximum of 18hrs per week. The total amount spent on wages over this period is £6,610. Money spent on publicity and marketing, including charges for our website, logo development, the printing of flyers, and the placing of an ad in therapy Today, comes to £1,576. Our two conferences, including room hire and refreshment, cost a total of £1,670. £65 was spent on expenses for a meeting with BACP, a donation of £60 was made to BAATN’s mentoring project, and there were bank service charges of £18, bringing the total expenses for the period to £9,999.

A total income of £15,730 minus expenses of £9,999 leaves a surplus of £5,731.”

  1. Use of the Ning, how is it going? a) The Ning has become more active lately. This is the biggest change since August – how the Forum page could be used for projects. This seems to be helping the overwhelming amount of traffic on the google group more manageable. However, the Ning groups are not very active. It is on the Forum page where most of the discussion happens. What is never clear, is how many people read the Ning, rather than use it b) There was some confusion about how to ‘follow’ discussions. A suggestion was made to post some information about the resource of the Ning and how to navigate the Ning. There could be a package of information about the Ning for new members, and perhaps a ‘refresher’ for current members. c) It seems that we are moving towards a situation where we have both the google group and the Ning.

  2. Internal Structures: a) Discussion on consensus and decision-making and the challenges this presents: concerns that reaching consensus makes processes very time consuming. b) The Committee have been looking for more involvement from the membership. For example, members sharing responsibility for initiating campaigns, drafting letters etc., rather than simply saying ‘the Union should do X’. There has been a question around who does the work. It is a difficult balance between transparency and efficiency and lessons are being learned as we develop.

  3. Campaigns Reports: a) Children and Social Work Bill. Richard and Juliet gave a summary of involvement with this and the connection with Women Against Rape at Crossroads Women’s Centre. This was led by Victoria Childs. b) We talked about the possibility of using organisations such as 38 degrees for online petitions c) Avigail spoke of the possibility of a Scottish section d) Mental Wealth Alliance: Andrew Samuels talked about our links with MWA and the New Savoy Protest that they organised regarding the use of IAPT. This was regarding the Government’s Work and Health Programme, due to be rolled out this autumn and involves a plan to integrate health and employment services, aligning the outcome frameworks of health services, IAPT, Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme. The MWA consists of Users, Service Users and Clinicians. The Union is a signatory to the MWA, alongside 16 other organisations. The MWA has had some success in challenging the 5 lead organisations that register mental health professionals. e) Discussion on campaigning. How you don’t have to be campaigning to be part of the Union. The Union can sign up to campaigns without leading. f) An area where the Union might like to lead is around unpaid trainees.

  4. Supporting our Members: There have been 22 enquiries about support. A break down provided. –

  • 10 complaints related. (4 related to internal disciplinary proceedings, 6 involved regulatory/external bodies)

  • 3 workplace grievances

  • 4 training issues

  • 4 workplace closure (2 involved course closure).

  • 1 no further support needed.

  1. Publicity: a) Discussion about PCU Facebook page. We have 700 likes on the page, many of whom are not members – how to expand membership through social media? This is also an immediate way of communicating. b) Suggestion to have webinars for live discussions c) possibility of a road show where PCU travels to present and raise our profile and seek new members at events - Nick

  2. Outreach to Organisations: a) PCU has been in communication with other Unions from which we took the basis of our constitution – the English and Scottish Artists Unions. The English Artist’s Union provided some useful information about what was involved in getting formerly registered with the Trade Union Council (TUC). Recent communication below:

Artists union England launched in 2014 due to an evident lack of accountable, democratic, independent representation for artists. In 2013, a group of artists wanted this situation to change and decided to do something about it.

It has been an exhausting but thrilling experience building our union. Our first hurdle being to convince artists that we were not an art project, we were a real trade union. Then having to tackle the upward struggle of getting members when we had little to offer them but solidarity in their struggles.

In these early stages, meet with as many other unions as possible, unions that there is some common ground, unions you can make allies with and join forces with during campaigns.

We met with other cultural unions and agencies prior to launch, not wanting to 'step on toes' and let them know what we were doing. Some relationships have been difficult to navigate, but most have been supportive and helped us both financially and with advice.

We decided becoming affiliated with GFTU and TUC would be incredibly important. It would give us access to education, training and again strengthen our support network. For this we needed to gain a certificate of independence, a set of expensive loop holes to jump through, to prove that you are an independent body, that allows you to function as a real 'grown up' trade union.

After raising £4000 and endless amounts of paperwork we were certificated last year, and celebrated in the houses of parliament. This also meant that agencies such as Arts Council England could no longer avoid us and had to take us seriously.

If this is a route that PCU would like to take, keep records of every meeting, and start fundraising.

I completely understand that everyone on PCUs exec is probably exhausted, and members are wondering what a union can do for them.... But remember...

A union is not a service, a union is only as strong and as driven as its members!

You are doing an amazing thing, and creating a united voice for your sector.

It is important, and you deserve to be heard!

Stay strong

In solidarity

Hayley Hare

Artists Union England

  1. Codes of Practice Campaign: a) A PCU working group, led by Nick, has developed a Code of Practice for unpaid workers and employed workers. b) Nick, Leanne and Jamie created a database and Nick has contacted 200 organisations, emailing the codes of practice. He has received 4 responses – all of these responses are people that were linked to the Union. These 4 have changed their own practice. c) UKCP have been contacted regarding this. They have acknowledged the contact and stated that they will get back to PCU. It was suggested that we keep on at them. It was suggested that a reference is put on the document to log it in time. d) It was also suggested that we flag up good practice. e) There is the problem that a trainee is not able to make a complaint about their placement because they are not a member of BACP yet. It was felt that this needs a letter to BACP. f) It was suggested that a panel is set up regarding trainees.

  2. Discussion around the Awareness Centre Who are continuing to recruit large numbers of unpaid counsellors; additional questions about poor practice. Discussion around a possible demonstration outside the Awareness Centre. First, it was suggested, that we write a letter to them. It was also suggested that member and/or the committee go there and talk with them. Concerns that they can ignore us.

  3. Future Events: a) Possibility of a Trainee event. b) Suggestion of more regular meetings – every 6 months

  4. Handing Over to the New Committee:

The Interim Committee said their goodbyes. Much appreciation expressed of all the work that they have done.

Afternoon AGM led by the new Committee

  1. Signatories were transferred from Kate and Nick to Jane Clements, Richard Bagnall-Oakeley and Andy Price.

  2. The new Committee introduced themselves and explained their roles:

Richard Bagnall-Oakeley – Chair

Jane Clements – Membership Secretary

Andrew Price - Treasurer

Juliet Lyons - Secretary

Philip Cox

Robbie Lockwood

Viviane Carneiro

Jamie Crabb

  1. Feedback from Complaints Support: Phil Cox and Andrew Samuels a) Members liked the support not being adversarial. The support was to facilitate the process. Help was given to service users and to practitioners. b) An organisation passed their practitioner onto us – a recognition of the value of our role. c) Susie Orbach gave a mention to the PCU on her live stream for BACP. BACP will shortly be sending out a link for all these therapists to access a recording of the event. d) BACP has named PCU as an organisation that can support and advise BACP members who have had complaints made against them. PCU has also been recognised by UKCP, BPC and NCS.

  2. Workplace Issues a) Suggestion of a conference/discussion day on complaints and workplace grievances b) Discussion of members experience with Kids Company, and issues arising in voluntary sector organisations

  3. Where are we going? a)i) Contacting Insurance Companies – we want to be able to get into meetings with solicitors. Insurance companies were willing to listen. They wanted to swap information – this would support the insurance companies and save them money. Insurance companies want to avoid a hearing. If we draft letters for members responding to complaints, will they pay us? ii) The Professional Standards Authority was interested in what we are doing. Carmen Joanne Ablack and Andrew Samuels have been involved in this regarding Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). iii) Expression of the need to be careful on this, that we do not become a subset of management/state regulation of therapist b) Training – we are looking into training in workplace organising, possibly through the Solidarity Federation c) Possible Advertising in Therapy Today d) There is an ongoing project of collating lists of email addresses for contacts

  4. Visions for the Future a) Members participated in a visual project: a map of ‘where we are and where we would like to be’. From this, the following discussions evolved: i) Banner making and badges ii) Set of talking points to use in discussion when seeking to encourage colleagues to join PCU script – Nick Totton is happy to do this. iii) Video on the Ning iv) Contact the steering group of PCSR v) Caution around obsession with membership numbers. It is as important that the quality of what we offer brings in members. vi) Networking – particularly with groups that support diversity and minority groups vii) Members asked to be directed to specific tasks. It may be that more members need this direction. Suggestion of a skills audit

‘Being in Company’ – describes the experience of collaboration, support and solidarity which the Union can offer its members.

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