This Government is woefully ignorant about the needs and priorities of women. Not only that, but it lacks even a basic level of understanding of the well-being industry which thousands of women rely on for their physical and mental health.
As regular clients will know, I’ve often drawn a distinction between what I do and the kind of reflexology you may receive under the beauty therapy banner, or at a spa. This isn’t because of inherent snobbery on my part; more a desire to be clear that there’s a difference between the kind of Reflexology I offer, and the relaxing foot massage that you might receive as a beauty therapy. My belief is that there is a place for both types of reflexology, but my year of initial training and the thousands of pounds I’ve subsequently spent on CPD training, mean that what I offer is inevitably going to look and feel different. I think you deserve to know the difference in what you’re getting and in an unregulated industry this means that it’s up to therapists like me, and professional associations like the Association of Reflexologists, to make these differences clear to the general public.
My aim is to support my (predominantly female) clients through their life and health challenges for as long as they need that support, not to give a one-off relaxing foot massage. I’ve supported my clients through miscarriages (sometimes multiple times), bereavements, domestic abuse, fertility journeys, sexual abuse, cancer treatment and health issues that only partially respond to conventional medicine (for example Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, painful periods and other hormone-related conditions which can be so debilitating for women). I practice Reflexology Lymph Drainage which has undergone clinical trials (you can find out more here) and has supported so many women living with lymphoedema as a result of breast cancer surgery. I’m sure that many of my clients will be thrilled to be able to finally get a haircut, but if they were asked if they’d rather go to the pub, watch horse racing or football or have some Reflexology or a facial, I know which most of them would choose.
Today I stand united with my sisters (and brothers) in the beauty and spa industry because we have been overlooked and ridiculed in Parliament. First we had to suffer the indignity of being referred to as Massage Parlours (we all know the connotations there!) and now we find that we’ve been placed in the same risk category as strip clubs and nightclubs. Yes you read that right. Me, sitting with my recently washed hands, in my well ventilated and thoroughly disinfected therapy room, wearing a mask and visor and uniform that hasn’t left the building except to be laundered, opposite you, with your own face covering and sanitised hands, are considered to be on a par, risk-wise, with a strip club.
Every day I receive a text or email from a client asking me when I can return to work. So many of my clients have had a terrible time during lockdown and are desperate for some therapeutic touch and time away from the realities of their lives; time that is focused entirely on their well-being. Almost all of them are women who have had to deal with family crises, bereavements, home schooling and other dramas that have left them feeling wrung out. They need some time and space to themselves more than ever.
Personally I’ve invested hours of my time wading through the intimate details of what I need to do to be able to return to work safely. I’ve invested hundreds of pounds in cleaning products, wipeable pillow cases, face coverings, single-use couch coverings etc. Whilst I was one of the lucky people who was able to claim the Government’s SEISS (self-employment) grant, the first payment has now run out. I’ve still had to pay my clinic rent as well as invest heavily in creating an even safer therapy room than before. When I eventually return to work I’m anticipating only being able to see half the clients I was seeing before the pandemic because of all of the extra cleaning time, and the need to avoid clients bumping into each other when they arrive and leave. This will have a dramatic effect on my income and yet I believe that I only have one more grant coming my way (in August), which will have to last me goodness knows how long.
The well-being industry has been so busy making sure that we can return to work safely but until Government truly understands the benefits that we bring to so many people, especially women, and considers recategorising us, it feels like we’re on a hiding to nothing.
Please, if you have the time, I’d be really grateful if you would write to your MP and tell them how important your Reflexology is to you and ask that we be allowed to return to work before strip clubs!