Religious agendas disguised as counselling

Last month I wrote about a counsellor, Lesley Pilkington, who aims to turn gay people straight as part of a thinly-veiled religious agenda. She’d previously been struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Until recently she was instead with the Association for Christian Counselling, probably the only professional body that would have her. Now she’s been kicked out by them too.

It turns out Pilkington and her ilk are not the only “counsellors” who are motivated by religious beliefs at the possible expense of the client. This was pointed out to me by Dr Brooke Magnanti, who you all know as Belle de Jour of blog, books and TV series fame, though these days she’s an academic researcher rather than a sex worker. A recent Telegraph investigation recorded counsellors at so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centres telling women that if they have an abortion they’re more likely to become a child sex abuser or to develop cancer. Needless to say, neither of these are true.

Magnanti points out that these counsellors are employed by an organisation with a very clear social agenda.

The vast majority of such ‘clinics’ in the UK (scare quotes because the counsellors are neither medical nor mental health professionals) are run by CareConfidential, an offshoot company originally founded by Christian Action Research and Education (CARE).

What are CARE’s other big interests? Well, they are also the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade. This APPG aims to promote the so-called Swedish Model, beloved of both the far right and radical feminists…

They were also deeply involved in supporting Section 28, the law which served to effectively silence any mention of homosexuality in schools and other public institutions until 2003.

A bit of Googling also reveals that they funded interns to 20 MPs and, as with Pilkington, they’ve promoted gay-to-straight conversion therapies. They’ve published research criticising the lack of tax breaks for stay-at-home parents.

This is an organisation that has a very specific idea of how society should be, and is actively campaigning for  it….no gays, no sex workers, no double-income families…and of course, no abortions. And that’s how one ends up at a situation where a “counsellor” is telling someone that if they have an abortion, they could become a child sex abuser.

Counselling is, in theory at least, supposed to be an emancipatory process that enables individuals to understand their own thoughts and feelings, to reflect upon and effectively make life choices. It should be to empower the client in relation to their own self, not to be railroaded along somebody else’s agenda.

But organisations like CARE can still call their staff counsellors because neither “counsellor” nor “psychotherapist” are protected titles, though Geraint Davies MP has a private members bill for regulation of counselling and psychotherapy. I’m aware that if his bill passes then CARE’s staff and the likes of Lesley Pilkington will simply call themselves coaches, advisers, mentors, whatever – and carry on practicing. But they won’t be able to use the word “counsellor” with all that’s assumed to mean by people who seek one out.

In the meantime, if you see a counsellor or psychotherapist, you should only use one who is with an accredited voluntary register such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.


Jeremy Hunt – The worst Health Secretary since the last one.

Jeremy Hunt is the Health Secre….Jeremy Hunt is the H….

Nope, sorry. Can’t say it without gagging.

It’s not as if the guy had some sort of high benchmark to live up to. His predecessor was some complete and utter Lansley who forced through a massive, untested reform programme that the electorate didn’t vote for and the professional bodies didn’t want, on an NHS that’s in no financial state to undergo restructuring. Surely the next guy had to be an improvement.

Enter Jeremy Hunt, stage right.

Everything about him embodies the worst of Cameron’s posh-boy cabal of unearned privilege and blatant careerism. A Charterhouse-educated son of an admiral; an alumnus of the Oxford University Conservative Association (a body whose nastiness was exposed in all its vainglory in Young, Bright and on the Right); with a background in PR and management consultancy before landing in a safe Tory seat; an expenses sponger; a tax dodger; a shameless promoter of nepotism.

Oh, and his background and qualifications in health? Zero.

Still, I’m sure he did a good job as Culture Secretary.


Yesterday, he kicked off a storm by declaring his view that the time limits on abortion should be cut to 12 weeks. I can find little to say on this that hasn’t already been said by Dan Hodges in the Telegraph.

A reduction in the abortion limit to 12 weeks would create a social – and public health – catastrophe. A significant number of women, especially teenagers, are not even aware they are pregnant after 12 weeks. None would have even had their initial scan conducted. How is a woman supposed to make a mature, rational – and morally balanced – decision on whether to continue with their pregnancy within such a timeframe? A potentially life-changing choice would be reduced by statute to a race against the clock.

Then there are the politics. However much Hunt deserves praise for his candour, he deserves to be hauled over the coals for his stupidity and self-indulgence. He must know that David Cameron took a political risk in transferring him to such a high profile brief in the wake of his Leveson travails. And he’s chosen to repay him by derailing the Tory conference locomotive before it has even left the sidings.

It’s been made clear that this is not a policy decision and we’re not about to see a cut in the abortion limit. So why did he suddenly come out and say this to kick off a firestorm?

One possibility is that he’s trying to hijack the Conservative Party conference in order to import US-style culture wars into Britain. Yes, because we really need those.

Another possibility, much-discussed on Twitter, it that he’s generating a fury in order to bury this story beneath the shouting.

One in 10 accident and emergency departments has either closed recently or could shut in the near future, while a similar proportion of labour wards is at risk.

Significant numbers of children’s units, surgical departments and wards for the elderly are also being considered for closure or downgrading, the analysis of England’s 300 acute hospitals found.

Almost all those at risk are part of major plans to reorganise services and prune back departments to concentrate staff and resources at bigger hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt has achieved the near-impossible. Not only has he made himself as atrocious a health secretary as Andrew Lansley, but he’s done it in just over a month after taking office.