This policy is under annual review. If you would like to view this document please contact SCC directly

Context

SCC aim to provide a counselling service that is affordable to all those in need, who are over the age of 16, and who are assessed as being able to make use of the service we offer.  Thus our target population is ‘according to need’.  

We recognise the challenge in reaching our target population and at the Management Executive meeting on 16 September 2013 we undertook our annual review as to how we monitor this success wth a view to further developing our strategy for addressing any limitations in accessibility.

Responses from the Equal Opportunities questionnaires August 2012 to July 2013 were reviewed as part of this procedure, as in previous years.   

What might deter clients accessing our service?

Our initial review during this meeting evolved around the question ‘what might prevent clients accessing our service?’ and we identified three broad accessibility limitations:  

1) Knowledge of the service

  • Only those who are aware of our service can access it and only those external referrers who know about our service can make referrals.  Thus our publicity and networking need to be up-to-date and effective.
  • Increasingly clients are likely to access our website as a first point of information.  As a direct endeavour to address the likely limitation of an outdated website, we have in the last year invested resources in completely redesigning our website and investing in search engine optimistion.  The numbers of client enquiries have increased since the inception of the new website
  • We are maintaining our policy to send a letter and leaflets to local GP Practices and other local service providers on an annual basis including CAB, NHS Talking Therapies, BCHA, Library et al.  We distribute posters and leaflets widely including the towns where we have our satellite centres.  
  • SCC continues to monitor numbers of client enquiries with a planned review within 6 months by the Trustees whether we need to employ the services of someone wth specialist marketing expertise. Meanwhile, the job description of the new Administrative Manager has also been revised to include some marketing and promotion activities, commencing in January 2014.
  • We have built a reputation within the local community (including the medical community) for quality psychodynamic therapy for and time-limited work.   Our strategy includes maintaining and developing that reputation and building links with other service providers, i.e we developed a contract with the local college last year for provision of counselling services for students, and part of the SCC strategy is to develop that partnership to include HE students this academic year.  We have also focussed on developing links with ‘referral partners’ e.g. BHCA (domestic violence) as part of our Strategy to publicise our service. 

2) Affordability

  • Our Equal Opportunities form includes specific reference to ‘affordability’ i.e. seeking to ascertain whether clients experience discrimination according to their ability to pay for counselling.   Four respondents (8%) indicated they did feel discriminated against.  The narrative attached to these responses was: ‘May not be able to attend regular sessions’, ‘Reluctant to approach before as unclear what fees will be’, ‘Barely above minimum wage’ and ‘May be too expensive to attend weekly as single parent’.  In our explanatory leaflets for clients and website we highlight that we seek to offer counselling to clients on a low income, and our Administrator (first point of contact for telephone enquiries) provides information about this aspect of our service.
  • Following a one-off substantial donation of £2,000 this year and this has been ring fenced to provide funding to increase the number of low cost (£20 or under) places we are offering.  
  •  We are receiving an increase in the number of clients requesting low cost places, and we do not receive any direct funding for our services so rely on a minimum level of client contributions.  The Trustees have approved 3 hours a week for 6 months, ring fenced payment for a member of staff to apply for grant funding, aiming to increase our revenue.  SCC acknowledges the need to explore avenues of funding if we are to meet the needs of our target population to access ‘affordable’ counselling, particularly in the current economic climate.  We can then further promote the flexible fee structure accordingly.

3) ‘Fit for purpose’ therapy

  • We continue to actively monitor waiting times, and we provide a timely, responsive service.  Within the past year we have changed our ‘intake’ procedure so that clients are now offered an appointment at the initial point of enquiry (rather than being sent information at this stage).  This has significantly increased the uptake of initial consultations compared to the previous year.  Our strategy is to maintain this new system.
  • We continue to actively explore with our staff counsellors the implications of IAPT and whether we wish to develop our service to include broader evidence based therapies (in addition to CBT and EMDR) – whilst balancing our reputation for also providing ‘deep’ longer term relational therapy.  Our strategy includes continuing to provide a broad CPD study programme for our counsellors to support and develop high quality, informed therapeutic practice at SCC.  
  • Part of the grant application process includes a developmental aim to fund some staff hours to focus on developing our CORE research data collection with a view to more effective demonstration of the outcomes with psychodynamic therapy in our service.  We anticipate this will support the promotion of our psychodynamic work in due course.
  • We have developed a Relationship counselling service and Young People’s counselling service in the past year, to meet our aim of providing counselling for those ‘in need’.
  • Our strategy further includes seeking advice from Taunton Voluntary Association (TVA) on broadening our Equality and Diversity review – including whether our equal opps data represents the proportions of our local population.

Physical Access

We have undertaken a formal review of our disability access previously – and have made ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the current premises, including a ramp to the front door.  If/when we move premises a requirement would clearly be to provide full disabled access toilet facilities i.e. not simply ground floor as at present, but wheelchair accessible.  We have recently established more formal links with Compass, the local disability advisory service.

We have published this Strategy on the website, and will make reference to it in our Annual Report to ensure our stakeholders know that the Strategy is available electronically or by hard copy and that we invite and welcome comment.