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Partnership to improve access to counselling training in Scotland

Kirsten Amis plus students

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) today announced a unique partnership which promises to improve access to the counselling profession for students in Scotland through a new BACP Approved Qualification scheme.

SQA’s new Higher National Diploma in Counselling has been developed collaboratively with BACP – a first within the UK – and offers a number of benefits to students of counselling in Scotland, including more straightforward entry onto BACP’s Register of Counselling Professionals which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.

The new diploma has been recognised by BACP as a BACP Approved Qualification, and is the first qualification in the UK to have been awarded this title. The BACP Approved Qualification scheme differs from BACP’s existing Accredited Course scheme in that the agreement is at qualification level with the awarding organisation, not with the individual course provider.

SQA has been working closely with BACP and Glasgow Clyde College where the qualification is being piloted with a group of 19 students. The students have been providing curriculum leaders with real-time feedback on how the course is performing, so it aligns closely with the requirements of employers, placement providers, and universities.

David Middleton, Chair of SQA, said:
“This unique partnership between SQA and BACP will provide students with greater opportunities for employment and further study. Candidates who successfully complete the new diploma will be able to apply for Individual Registration with BACP. The certificated skills and experience that they have demonstrated in the diploma will allow them to move onto the next stages of their career, whether that is seeking employment as a practising counsellor, or going on to further study.”

For BACP, this scheme represents a new way of working with qualification providers. The collaboration with SQA will be reviewed and evaluated throughout the year. It has the potential to be used as a model for the Association’s partnerships with other qualification providers across the UK.

Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of BACP, said:
“This ground-breaking pilot project will have a significant positive impact on counselling training in Scotland. People in Scotland who wish to become counsellors now have a clear route into the profession and onto BACP’s respected Register of Counselling Professionals.

“The outcome of this exciting scheme will be an increased number of qualified, BACP-registered counselling professionals in Scotland. I’m extremely excited about the impact of this project, which will allow us to better support the mental health of people who live in Scotland.”

SQA and BACP have worked together to develop the HND in Counselling so that it meets the high standards of both organisations in terms of content, curriculum, delivery and assessment, including practice requirements. The qualification has also been mapped to the relevant BACP professional standards and competencies and their respected Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions.

An integral part of the Higher National Diploma is BACP’s Certificate of Proficiency assessment. Successful completion will allow candidates to apply for entry to BACP’s Register of Counselling Professionals. 

Kirsten Amis, course leader and lecturer at Glasgow Clyde College, said:
“The new undergraduate diploma is about improving access. I have had the privilege of working with a group of students who are committed to this course, many of whom would not have had the opportunity to take more traditional routes into the profession. They are passionate about becoming counsellors, and want to work with the most vulnerable members of our society. I hope the new HND will help remove some of the barriers that may have prevented them from pursuing their ambitions in the past”

Speaking about his time working towards the Counselling diploma as part of the pilot group, student Ian Brogan said:

“Having access to the Higher National Diploma in Counselling has given me the opportunity to take the next step in my chosen career; something I wouldn’t have been able to do before.”

Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Mental Health, added:
“I welcome the launch of this important qualification. This is an exciting and innovative development and will help improve access to mental health care and wellbeing care for people across Scotland.”

View the video of the event 

Picture shows Glasgow Clyde College students and staff. Picture credit Stuart Nicol Photography.