Accessibility strategy

MCS accessibility strategy 2020/21

MCS charitable objectives seek to provide support for the mental health of people in Herefordshire and surrounding counties who, because of mental or physical ill health, social or economic circumstances, or disability, are suffering from psychological distress and/or disorder.

We recognise that there can be various barriers to people accessing our service. These may be physical, financial, psychological or cultural. Although we cannot always remove barriers for individuals, we work to minimise them.

Overcoming physical barriers

Our main counselling rooms are in Hereford city. To facilitate people without transport or easy access to the city, we use rooms in the market towns. Our strategy long term is to open satellite bases in the north and south of the county and to develop remote working for appropriate clients.

Our suite of rooms in Hereford city are on the second floor. For those with physical disabilities we use a ground floor room with close parking. Our strategy long term is to seek premises with their own ground floor rooms and parking. Remote working will also facilitate work with those unable to leave their home environment.

Overcoming financial barriers

We are aware that many people may consider therapy which is not provided free of charge through the NHS, out of their reach. Our strategy here is to raise our profile as a service which makes affordable therapy available: through our contacts with referrers in the statutory sector, as well as using social media and contact with other voluntary agencies.

To enable our service to be sustainable we have a funding strategy which prioritises grants which can underwrite the fees, for people from the many areas of deprivation in Herefordshire. In addition, we raise monies from other activities which support our charitable objectives of supporting the counselling community and working against stigma in the community.

Overcoming psychological barriers

Part of profile raising within the community is the use of social media and our website to remove some of the uncertainties about what is involved and what can be achieved in therapy with us.

Our strategy relies upon recognising the primary importance of the first point of contact. Our administrator is key in putting those who contact us at ease and explaining what might be involved. Where there are particular anxieties she will arrange for one of the senior clinicians to make contact to answer questions.

Further reassurance is given by the assessment process, which is a 90 minute appointment with one of the senior clinicians. If there are still uncertainties around, for either assessor or client, a second appointment may be offered.

Overcoming cultural barriers

Whilst MCS serves a county whose population isn’t particularly diverse compared to other regions, we recognise the importance of being culturally and ethnically sensitive. This acknowledges also the research highlighting the need to look beyond individual views within organisations to consideration of systemic discrimination. Our equal opportunities policy provides the basis of our approach to ensuring accessibility to people from different cultural backgrounds. Any issues arising due to cultural difference are considered on a case by case basis, and in the context of our monitoring systems. Data is drawn from our equal opportunities monitoring forms provided to clients and to applicants for paid and voluntary positions. It is part of training in the therapeutic professions to develop an understanding of anti- discriminatory practice. MCS, as a BACP accredited service, also develops policies, procedures and practices in line with the BACP ethical framework. This includes guidance for counsellors on the need for cultural sensitivity. It is also part of our strategy to provide CPD to MCS staff to raise awareness and foster responsiveness to the changing needs arising from peoples experience of social inequalities and discrimination.

Where language may present barriers to access we have use an interpreters service provided by the local council. There is a reduced rate for some third sector services. Terms of access to this resource will be reviewed as part of our annual review of this strategy.

We aim to stay in tune with the demographics in the area and to be responsive to the needs arising from such population changes. In this context we would endeavour to recognise how people of non-white and non-European ethnic origin are somewhat under represented in counselling provision, as are some other groups including the Romany community, as well as, people in low paid, low skilled occupations.

Monitoring accessibility

  • An equality and diversity monitoring form is completed by clients of the service at assessment.
  • Feedback from clients of the service is collected, whether or not they have engaged with us, to give an indication of whether they were subject to barriers in taking up the service.
  • Our client matrix also records the stage at which a person withdraws from the service following referral
  • Our end of therapy feedback for is used at whatever stage that a client terminates therapy. Whilst sometimes when someone stops coming abruptly it is not always possible to get this feedback, this does provide a method for collecting information about accessibility.

Dates for review

This strategy will be reviewed annually through one of our quarterly business meetings. It will also be made available to the public via our website. MCS staff will be made aware through the circulation of minutes from the business meeting in which this strategy is annually reviewed.

The next review will take place on the 21st October 2020

As part of our annual review of this strategy MCS will gather and consider:

  • government published data on local demographics
  • client feedback over the year
  • staff feedback collected through the annual staff survey
  • general feedback invited on this strategy (see below)
  • matters arising from other MCS planning groups – e.g. funding and marketing groups; business and board meetings
  • Client end of therapy feedback questionnaires