Updated: Jul 22, 2018
A Message from Richard Bagnall-Oakeley PCU Chair
In the three months since I accepted the role of Chair, following my previous experience on the Committee, it's become even clearer to me that a key problem for us as a union is how to draw on the strengths of our members. Some of our most distinctive achievements as an organisation, such as our interventions in the UEA course closures, or in connecting with other grassroots organisations in the campaigns around children's social care, have stemmed from member initiatives rather than committee leadership.
We want to develop a way of organising that is not only transparent and accountable, but breaks free of the rigid, top-down political structures that fail to empower people to organise and make changes locally and in their own lives - a project more congruent with the liberating potential of psychotherapy and counselling. However, this requires all of us to find ways beyond deeply ingrained social and political conditioning (as well as actual material constraints) which tends to induce individualism, isolation and a split between an 'activist', self-martyring few and a passive majority (I have been, and still am, in both camps!)
This newsletter and the ideas put forward about use of the website and other media, reflects an attempt on the part of your Committee to reach out to members and seek your involvement in making changes in how we organise. We will be making more suggestions and I urge members to get more actively involved where possible - this is your Union, help us ensure it is driven by its members!
Child Social and Welfare Bill
Juliet Lyons read a statement at a protest outside Holborn Family Court, written by PCU members on behalf of the Union, regarding the Childrens and Social Care Bill which the Union has been campaigning against. She also tried to contact WAR (Women Against Rape) numerous times for an update, but not received one.
Juliet Lyons, in her role as PCU Secretary has written a letter, with the help of other Union members to various counselling organisations that are working with their clients who would like to receive benefits for third and subsequent children, but can only do so if they comply with the Rape Clause.
We have questioned whether these organisations should be working with the government in this way, rather than boycotting the process, as is the case in Scotland. Initiation, and help from members around these issues has been much appreciated by myself and the committee. Copies of the letter and replies are on the Ning.
Update on Projects and Campaigns
Codes of Practice
A PCU working group, led by Nick Totton, developed Codes of Practice: one for unpaid work for trainees to "get the hours" for qualification, the other for paid work for charities and other organisations. These were adopted at at PCU's first campaign conference, held at Resource for London on Saturday 3rd December. View the codes of practice on the PCU Ning website Articles page: http://pandcunion.ning.com/articles
Nick, Leanne Fowler and Jamie Crabb created a database of approximately 200 organisations from contacts provided by the membership. Nick contacted these organisations, emailing the codes of practice encouraging them to adopt the codes. He received 4 positive responses – all of these responses were people that were linked to the Union who have changed their own practice.
UKCP were contacted regarding this and they acknowledged the contact and stated that they will get back to PCU and this needs to be followed up by the committee or project group.
Nick has suggested some useful ways forward for the campaign that the union can start to build on over the summer including:
● A dedicated PCU Ning Website page for the campaign that could include the responses received.
● Setting up a project team of people to make follow-up- phone calls and email contact to the agencies we have emailed.
● Ask union members to take the codes to their own agencies etc and ask that a response be made.
● An article in Therapy Today.
● A demonstration.
Members can join the codes of practice campaign in the following ways:
● If you know of an organisation that PCU should get in contact with in regards to adopting the codes of practice complete the form here. You can check if the organisation is already on our list by viewing the sheet here.
● Join the codes of practice project team - catch up on the progress of the codes of practice project here on the PCU Ning Codes of Practice Forum/Project: http://pandcunion.ning.com/forum/trainees-and-volunteers and put yourself forward to help with this important next phase.
UEA Course closures
One of the most high-profile areas of PCU activity in the last few months has been in the campaign against course closures at the University of East Anglia. With minimal consultation, the University leadership had decided to close the long-established and highly regarded courses in person--centred counselling, leaving students who had begun training on the certificate course unable to progress to a diploma. The only 'counselling'-related training on offer would be the manualised IAPT approach offered for psychologists at the School of Medicine.
Andrew Samuels and Kate O'Halloran brought their experience and commitment to organising a valiant campaign against the closures, working with two on-site PCU members to mobilise students and staff. From a situation where there was apparently minimal awareness of, and resistance to, the closures, in a short space of time the campaign had arranged an on-site meeting with the local MP and local voluntary sector projects, eliciting support from other trade unions, circulating a well-supported petition and getting a letter published in The Guardian. Andrew in particular gave a huge amount of time and effort to emails, meetings, networking and lobbying, while keeping the Committee and the PCU membership updated. Unfortunately, the Vice-Chancellor and other senior figures remained intransigent, refusing to engage in the substance of our arguments about the importance of the courses, or to negotiate a compromise whereby the Diploma course would be temporarily retained to allow existing students to qualify.
It seemed that we had heard about this issue too late to intervene decisively, as many staff had apparently accepted the situation as a done deal, giving us limited leverage to put sustained pressure on the university management. Despite the high status of the course in the world of person-centred counselling, BACP also seemed reluctant to speak out in defence of the course, the students, the various counselling projects supported by the trainees and graduates, or the wider importance of the person-centred approach.
The campaign undoubtedly raised the profile of PCU and showed the impact our Union can have in mobilising and co-ordinating a range of groups and individuals - but it also showed what we (and the majority of therapists valuing relationship-based, non-manualised approaches) are up against. Despite the fact that the 'evidence base' shows disastrously poor long-term results for the IAPT approach, these politically expedient, low-cost 'treatments' continue to be promoted and rolled out across the country, jeopardising more in-depth counselling and psychotherapy trainings. There is a clear need for future campaigns to address this issue, where UKCP and BACP have up to now been ineffective in defending the standing of their members, and we hope that PCU will continue to play an active role in this area.
Update on Social Media
Viviane Carneiro and Jamie Crabb have been working on ways of updating the Ning and on how to develop it into a website.
Our Facebook page has been up and running since October 2015 and I am very pleased to announce that we have recently gone over 1000 likes, which for an organisation like ours is a great feat.
The Facebook page is how PCU interact with the public in general and it has been well received, the comments and feedback are very positive, never a bad comment, only praises.
Clare Slaney is a social media specialist, she recently run the social media campaign for the winning Kensington Labour candidate. Her well-thought posts have the right tone and weight that reflects well what PCU stands for.
If you haven’t visited our Facebook page, please check it out:
The Ning is a great part of how members interact, it’s our platform for discussions, projects, groups, news, networking and much more.
It’s where we gather as a community and member’s participation is of the essence.
If you have any suggestion or expertise that you would like to share, it would be very welcome.
It’s also a platform to share articles and research. I have been in touch with David Morgan, chair of the Political Mind Seminar at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and he will kindly make available to PCU all of the articles and recording from the seminars.
These seminars explore Psychoanalysis and Politics in the light of contemporary issues such as racism, terrorism, totalitarian thinking, NHS, ecology, gender and more.
You can still catch the last two seminars, for more information follow the link below.
What the Committee is currently doing
The committee is looking into ways that we can increase membership including encouraging existing members to get the word out to their contacts about PCU. There is a crib sheet to give members ideas when talking to people about why it is a good idea to join.
If you would like leaflets to be sent to you contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Complaints and Workplace Grievance support
Message from Phil Cox on complaints:
Hello fellow PCU members,
This is to update you regarding how the union has supported members who were either
thinking of making a complaint about an employer, or who have received a complaint
involving their practice. The PCU’s moto is Standing up for Therapists. The philosophy that
underpins the work of your committee is that we are not here to judge. This means that
whatever the issue or context, we will support you.
In practice and where possible, when representing members during a workplace complaint we
have successfully used a collaborative approach. This has meant negotiating a resolution that
our member and the employer could agree. For instance, in one process our member resigned
rather than being summarily dismissed, and the organisation agreed not to make a formal
complaint to our member’s registration body.
Where a collaborative approach has not been possible, cases become more complex and
protracted. In such cases the PCU’s significant degree of national recognition and influence in
the field of counselling and psychotherapy evidences the union’s impact. Our collective
influence and voice are growing. With your help to let your networks know what we are
achieving, we will gain further influence to vocally support you in a time of need. From a
personal perspective, I would like to highlight two points; firstly, the message I keep hearing from therapists is that once they join PCU, they feel someone is listening and acting;
secondly, many organisations I have contacted have been impressed by what PCU are doing.
From multiple perspectives, we are widely acknowledged to be the only body Standing up for
Contacts are being made with insurance companies. These will be reported on when they are
more advanced. For now, it seems fitting to offer the words of a member who offered to
report their experience for the benefit of us all: “Having struggled for months with a threat to
my professional reputation and livelihood I felt worn down, vulnerable and isolated. My
professional body’s best advice was the Citizens Advice Bureau and a legal helpline, neither
of which had the necessary expertise to respond. Since joining, membership of the PCU has
provided me with a lifeline of robust, rigorously scrupulous and knowledgeable support every
step of the way, with keen and sensitive attention to my concerns. I no longer feel alone and
vulnerable and recommend that all Counsellors and Psychotherapists join.”
Recent events in the public eye have again demonstrated the power of the collective voice. As
therapists, we stand stronger together, so please pass on the message of what the PCU is
achieving. We can be grateful to Nick and Kate for harnessing their energy to create the
union, and to Andrew Samuels who positioned the complaints aspect so that we have much to
Your committee and therapists involved in complaints really need help from those willing to
contribute a little time. This could involve speaking to members experiencing difficulties, or
organising regional-based support. To find out more or ask questions, feel free to contact me.
It’s really rewarding!
PCU needs more members to volunteer to support members with complaints and workplace grievances.
The committee are looking into how to provide training for members in this area.
Juliet Lyons has been aware of Elizabeth Cotton’s work with Unions for some time and happened to meet with her at the Political Minds Seminars. Viviane Carneiro and Juliet Lyons spoke with her and will meet with her again, as she has offered some future training – perhaps both for our committee and for our members.
Update on Cases
Since the AGM on 1st April PCU has been supporting the following:
4 complaints - support is ongoing.
1 complaint - support given and case completed.
2 workplace grievances - support is ongoing.
1 workplace grievance - support completed, member has legal representation.
1 workplace grievance - support given and case completed.
1 workplace grievance - PCU was unable to offer local support.
1 workplace grievance - initial phone call support only.
All these members have appreciated the support given by PCU particularly having a fellow therapist to talk to when they are feeling isolated.
Contact with PCSR
Committee members will contact PCSR to discuss how PCU and PCSR can work together and avoid duplication of efforts.
Viviane Carneiro has recently been in touch with PCSR to have a dialogue about the ways in which we overlap and if we could collaborate in some areas.
Hypnotherapists wanting to join
There was an enquiry from a group of Hypnotherapists asking if they could join PCU and if they could have reduced group membership subs. Some Hypnotherapists have a Counselling or Psychotherapy training. This raised the question of what the criteria for joining PCU is, the committee agreed that the criteria is that therapists have to have undergone a Counselling or Psychotherapy training, the membership leaflet has been updated to reflect this.
The committee agreed that we could not offer a reduced membership subs as the current level of subs is reasonable.
Members and Regional Group Map
The idea of the map is to support members to form regional groups, campaigns, projects, social and interest groups and other activities. We encourage members to visit and explore the map an offer your thoughts and feedback. Currently we have plotted the PCU Committee on the map to give a visual representation of what is possible.
If you navigate to the ‘Groups’ area of the the PCU Ning website: http://pandcunion.ning.com/groups you will find a 'draft' Members and Regional Group Map.
Some starting point questions we would ask for feedback on are:
Would such a map be useful for PCU and in what ways?
What would you like to see on your member listing on the map?
New members would be asked on the application if they would like to be added to the map. How could we go about adding existing members?
You can feedback on the map in the Members/Regional Group Map Ning forum/project here: http://pandcunion.ning.com/forum/members-regional-group-map.
19 new members have joined since the AGM on 1st April and there is a steady flow of new members joining.
Political Minds Seminars at the Institute of Psychoanalysis
Juliet Lyons, Viviane Carneiro and Jamie Crabb have been going to the seminars on Tuesday evenings. They have been taking PCU leaflets and talking to people there about the work of PCU. David Morgan has mentioned us at the seminars and there has been talk within the audience of the need to join a Union. It has been a good experience of sharing ideas about psychotherapies and politics and letting people know about our Union.
Help from members is particularly needed with:
Getting the Codes of Practice to Therapy organisations. Initially this will involve gathering contact details for therapy organisations.
More members to volunteer to support members with Complaints and/or Workplace Grievances.
If you would like to get involved with any of these issues or have ideas about others that the union needs to be involved in please e-mail email@example.com
Messages from Committee Members
Message from Viviane Carneiro
Last April, when I joined the PCU’s committee, I was asked to take on the Social Media role, which meant working alongside Clare Slaney, who has been successfully running our Facebook page for the past seven months.
My role within the union is not exclusive to Social Media, I am also involved in other areas, such as offering support to complaint cases, for instance.
I’m looking forward to the meeting that Juliet Lyons and I set up with Elisabeth Cotton, a union consultant trained in counselling, who has offered her services to the Union.
It’s been exciting and challenging to be part of PCU development and I’m in great appreciation of others on the committee and their hard work, also of members that are in the background contributing to the ongoing running of PCU.
A lot has happened in this last three months and there is a lot more in the pipeline.
Keep in touch, Viviane Carneiro
Message from Juliet Lyons
In the last 3 months, I’ve been trying to get to know the role of Secretary and how to communicate with members, the committee and other organisations in this role. I have been familiarising myself with where we are, what has already been achieved by the previous committee (so much of the founding documents, systems, ethos and will to move forward) and where we would like to go. My ongoing frustration is that it is hard to get a balance between receiving/responding to instruction and leading. Politically, it has been such a strange and painful time, with hope of change too late to make a difference to lives lost at Grenfell Tower or through terrorism. I am grateful for the support and work of the Committee and our members through these times.
The first letter I sent out on PCU’s behalf was written by a member, to Kevin Courtney of the NUT, offering support from PCU. I have kept a record of all the activism we have been involved in as a Union, including where I have not been involved personally, and posted it on the Ning (see the notices).