Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 41

Submission from the Relate Institute


  1.  The Relate Institute provides training in relationship counselling and therapy for approximately 350 learners a year. The vast majority go on to work for Relate. Withdrawal of HEFCE ELQ funding will seriously threaten the future of the Relate Institute, publicly launched only last year by Alan Johnson, then Secretary of State for Education and Skills. This in turn will threaten the work of the entire Relate Federation which provides crucial relationship support for couples, families and young people, at reduced, or no cost.

  2.  Moreover, the speed of the introduction of the change in funding will have a considerable, disproportionate and, no doubt unintended, impact on the Relate Institute from January 2008. Because of the flexible way that the Relate Institute delivers its programmes students are able to embark on their training in January and May as well as in September.

  3.  We believe learners studying for an ELQ in counselling or therapy at the Relate Institute should be exempt from the funding withdrawal for the following reasons:

    —  This major financial disincentive to learners in this field will undermine government efforts to extend the provision of talking therapies on the NHS, and family and relationship support as set out in the recently published Children's Plan.

    —  Coming regulation of counsellors and psychotherapists by the Health Professions Council will place our students within the grounds for exemptions as laid out in Annexe B of the HEFCE consultation document[50]

    —  Maturity and life experience, which may include a previous qualification, are highly desirable attributes for a counsellor or psychotherapist; learners hoping to join these professions will be disproportionately affected by the funding withdrawal.


  4.  This submission is being made by Claire Tyler, the Chief Executive of Relate. Relate has over 60 years' experience of being the largest provider of relationship support in the UK. It delivers relationship counselling, education and sex therapy to individuals, couples and families in over 600 locations nationwide as well as by phone and online. Relate works with 150,000 people a year, including 9,000 families, and 22,000 children and young people. Relate works preventively with Children's Centres, schools, GP's surgeries, prisons and our local Centres.

  5.  The Relate Institute is the training arm of Relate, and was founded in 2006. The Relate Institute is a faculty of Doncaster College, and provides research and relationship counsellor training at undergraduate and post-graduate degree levels. Each of these Higher Education Programmes is validated by the University of Hull.


  6.  The entry level programme in the portfolio is the University Advanced Diploma: Introduction to Couple Counselling, a part-time Level 6 qualification that lasts for one year. There is progression from this to the part-time Postgraduate Diploma, at which point students have the choice of pursuing one of four specialist areas within Relationship Therapy. There is then further progression on to the MSc in Relationship Therapy.

  7.  Relate Institute graduates invariably go on to work within Relationship Counselling, almost always within local Relate Centres. In order to work for Relate, they must have at least the University Advanced Diploma. The progression rate from the level 6 Diploma on to the Level 7 Postgraduate Diploma is 23%.

  8.  The vast majority of learners on the University Advanced Diploma course are over 25:

Age range of students in 06-07 <25 = 1
25-40 = 55 (35%)
41-60 = 99 (63%)
>60 = 4 (2%)

  9.  The withdrawal of funding would have a considerable effect on our income, and ability to operate.


Number of Students
225 Number of Students193
Loss 100% ELQ£472,500 Loss 60% ELQ£92,640
Loss 90% ELQ£425,250 Loss 50% ELQ£77,200
Loss 80% ELQ£378,000 Loss 40% ELQ£61,760
Loss 70% ELQ£330,750 Loss 30% ELQ£46,320
Loss 60% ELQ£283,500 Loss 20% ELQ£30,880
Loss 50% ELQ£236,250 Loss 10% ELQ£15,440

  10.  On the basis of the current profile of students at the Relate Institute, it is expected that in 08—09 there will be 70% ELQs on the University Advanced Diploma and 30% on PGDip. The consequent reduction in HEFCE funding is circa £375,000 (the sum of the emboldened rows above). The figure represents approximately a quarter of the full income to the Relate Institute and would result in the Relate Institute running at a substantial and unsustainable loss.

  11.  Not only would this reduction in income lead to severe financial difficulties for the Relate Institute, it would also have major repercussions for the service delivery of Relate. Without a flow of qualified counsellors, Relate cannot maintain the existing level of services, let alone grow to meet increasing need. A knock-on effect will be fewer newly trained counsellors going on to take post-graduate qualifications: these allow them to do more specialist work, particularly with children and families.

  12.  Moreover, we are very surprised by the retrospective nature of this change about which we had no forewarning. The Relate Institute will actually be affected by this policy before the start of the 08/09 academic year. Recent changes in the way that HEFCE funding is calculated will mean that any students starting their programme of study in January and May 2008 will be treated as though they are enrolled from September 2008, so HEFCE funding will be lost for these students as well. The cost of this change will result in a further reduction in HEFCE funding of about £80,000 in both 07/08 and 08/09, a loss of income over and above the reduction of funding of £375,000 already referred to above.

  13.  This retrospective introduction without any forewarning does not follow the principles of good public administration in terms of allowing proper planning and transitional arrangements.

  14.  We understand, and support, the notion that savings must be made in order to increase participation in Higher Education. 30% of learners studying for a University Advanced Diploma do not have an ELQ, and we are keen to increase this proportion. But we believe, as we know HEFCE does, that certain learners should be exempt for strategic, social and economic reasons. We believe that Relate's learners fall into this category because:

    —  Such a major disincentive to students of the Relate Institute will undermine the government's stated aim of making talking therapies more accessible via the NHS. All three of the Relate Institute's therapeutic models—systemic, psychodynamic, and cognitive behavioural—are recommended by NICE as approved interventions. The Department of Health wants to provide 900,000 extra patients with such interventions by 2010-2011. A barrier to this aim is a lack of trained practitioners. By extending our existing contracting with Primary Care Trusts we are able to help them meet the shortfall by training 350 practitioners a year within the Relate Institute.

    —  This disincentive to students will undermine government efforts to provide preventive interventions to families. The Government's new Children's Plan states that "an effective family policy must start with supporting strong couple relationships and stable, positive relationships within families", and that Children's Centres and other services must be able to signpost families to relationship support. We already work in this way but need to extend services so that they reach all parents—and children—in need. This work depends on a supply of qualified counsellors, and reducing learner numbers will jeopardise this.

    —  We note that, in Annex B of the consultation document, it is stated that students on courses leading to qualification "to practise as a nurse, midwife, social worker, or in other related healthcare professions" should be exempted from the general policy on ELQ. Counselling and psychotherapy will shortly be regulated by the Health Professions Council, and this will include Relate practitioners.

  15.  It is also important to note that not only are Relate students more likely to be mature students, it is an advantage that they are, and this enables them to engage with a client group that itself has a wide range of work and life experiences. The training of practitioners in counselling and psychotherapy rarely follows standard routes. Entry into this field is by people who typically have previous life experience and who have very likely already developed a career in a related social care field such as teaching and health care. There is also a significant intake of people from other backgrounds who bring a broad range of work, and other, experience with them.

  16.  Indeed, Relate prides itself on having attracted a wide and diverse range of people to train as practitioners—increasingly such people will already have studied at HE level. Such people are uniquely suited to satisfy the growing need for a workforce with the skills required by the NHS, and other partners. Such a workforce is also mature enough to meet the needs of the client group, and academically and professionally adaptable enough to be able to take on board new knowledge and a new range of skills.


  17.  Relate recommends that government grants an exemption to students of the Relate Institute, and to learners across the "talking therapy" field, given the social, economic and strategic importance of these professions.

January 2008

50   Withdrawal of funding for equivalent or lower qualifications (ELQs), Sept 2007. Back

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