What Would You Do With £34m?


What would you do with £34m?

You could give around £425,000 to each benefit claimant.

You could use it to help pay off this much-vaunted deficit (the only deficit we’ve ever been this excited about.)

Think how £34m could be used to support projects like The Maytree which offers respite for people who are suicidal, or Magic Breakfast who give thousands of children breakfasts every day. In British schools. Or the Trussel Trust, who give food parcels to people who cannot afford to buy any, and who have recently spoken out about the growing number of Job Centres who are refusing to refer ‘customers’ to them. This coincides the quiet dropping of the requirement for Job Centre staff to record the reason for a food bank referral and to provide claimants with vouchers — meaning that food banks cannot assess need at the other end. Conveniently enough, this also reduces the amount of embarrassing statistical data in circulation on food banks.

Meanwhile, back in the world of counselling, we hear that the BACP has been seeking a Royal Charter as part of its obsession with status that has been going on for years.

A lively debate on the matter is on-going over at LinkedIn while a bell tolls and tumbleweed blows through the BACP’s attempt at social media.

Universal Credit is not a bad idea in principal. It aims to simplify a confoundingly complex system and to bring people who live week to week into the ‘normal’ world of monthly budgeting. But it ignores the intricacy of individual lives, where waiting 3 weeks for a payment means starvation just because it does. It would be great if everyone could be wonderfully organised and on top of everything all the time, but on a budget of £200 a month life is not simple. Where it has gone wrong is putting ideology ahead of what’s happening in the real world of IT contracts, (employed, well paid) human error and (below poverty line) human lives.

Seeking professional status for counsellors is not a bad idea in principal. It aimed to up all our games, help weed out poor practice and offer clients a standardised complaints process. But it ignores the cost, literal and in terms of homogenisation of the people who are allowed to become a counsellor. For me, the problems with being a professional are summed up by Googling images of ‘professional’: all those young, slim people in suits, arms folded, meaning business.

It would be helpful if the BACP spent somewhat less than £34m on helping counsellors make a living from our own businesses, without seeing human beings as ‘opportunities for counsellors.’ Instead, it is seeking prestige and pre-eminence, presumably on the understanding that a Harley Street practice does better work than a counsellor volunteering in a community where a majority of people are out of work. Like our current DWP, the BACP has put ideology ahead of reality.