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MPs call on Government to secure revival of £30bn beauty and wellbeing sector post-pandemic

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Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (the APPG), Chaired by Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, publishes a Call to Action following its inquiry into the sector’s recovery from COVID-19.

The MPs launched the inquiry following concerns from industry leaders that the sector was still struggling to bounce back after the pandemic. Once worth £30bn supporting 50,000 businesses and 560,000 jobs (85% women), the pandemic has decimated the industry.

The Group found many businesses are facing debilitating staff shortages post-Brexit and due to inadequate funding for apprentices. In addition, the deficit in consumer confidence has meant that 66% of beauty businesses remain either partially or fully reliant on Government support to function.

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the UK public, and the sector pays a crucial role in supporting this, taking pressure of the NHS, and helping to treat long-COVID symptoms. Yet staff shortages and a complete lack of Government recognition hinder the sector from fulfilling these needs.

The Group today makes 3 key recommendations for Government to ensure that the sector is not left behind in the UK’s post-COVID recovery:

  1. Broaden apprenticeship incentives for employers, in particular for small and micro businesses
  2. Include further accessible and broader holistic and complementary qualifications in the National Skills Fund
  3. Recognise the crucial role of holistic and complementary therapies, and the crucial role these can play in taking pressure off the NHS

These recommendations are based on evidence given in public inquiry sessions and written submissions from a wide range of stakeholders including trade associations, industry operators and education providers.

Co-Chairs of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, said:

“While we were grateful the sector was able to reopen in April after our year-long campaign for greater recognition, beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing continues to be left behind in the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We launched this inquiry due to concerns we were hearing from the industry about serious staff shortages, a continued deficit in consumer confidence, and a lack of support for wellbeing services that play an essential role in supporting our overstretched NHS.

The sector is still facing a myriad of issues from the COVID-19 pandemic that are continuing to be side-lined.

We strongly urge the Government to implement the recommendations in our Call to Action and to ensure that this vital sector, as the beating heart of several UK high streets, can once again become an economic powerhouse and continue to support all of our wellbeing.”

The Call to Action is available to download here:

MPs call on Government to address complete absence of regulation over botox and fillers and say maintaining the status quo is not an option

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Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (the APPG), Chaired by Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, publishes its final report into botox, fillers and similar aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic treatments.

The MPs launched a year-long inquiry following the explosion in the popularity and availability of these treatments. They were concerned that currently anyone can carry out any treatment, with minimal legal restrictions on who can provide them or what qualifications they must have to do so.

There is a complete lack of a legal framework of standards around these treatments, which has left consumers at risk and undermined the industry’s ability to develop.

The APPG investigated practitioner standards and qualifications, the case for a registration of practitioners or licensing, ethics and mental health considerations, and the serious issues around advertising and social media.

There is much good practice from aesthetic practitioners in the beauty and medic industries, but also cases of poor practice from both. It was not the APPG’s intention to state who should or shouldn’t be allowed to become a practitioner, but ensure all practitioners gain the appropriate training and prove their competence to deliver advanced aesthetic treatments.

The Group today makes 17 recommendations for Government to plug this regulatory gap, including:

  • Setting national minimum standards for practitioner training;
  • Mandate practitioners hold a regulated qualification in line with national standards;
  • Legislate to introduce a national licensing framework;
  • Make fillers prescription only;
  • Develop and mandate psychological pre-screening of customers;
  • Extend the ban on U18s receiving botox and fillers to other invasive aesthetic treatments;
  • Place advertising restrictions on dermal fillers and other invasive aesthetic treatments;
  • Require social media platforms to do more to curb misleading ads and posts promoting these treatments.

These recommendations are based on evidence given in public inquiry sessions and written submissions from a wide range of stakeholders including trade associations, aesthetics industry operators, trainers, practitioners, health bodies, regulatory agencies and consumers themselves.

Co-Chairs of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, said:

“For too long there have been next to no limits on who can carry out aesthetic treatments, what qualifications they must have, or where they can administer them.

“We launched this inquiry as we were deeply concerned that as the number of advanced treatments on the market continues to grow, the regulation remains fragmented, obscure and out of date which puts the public at risk.

“We were also particularly concerned about the advertising and social media promotion of these treatments and how to make sure vulnerable people, such as children and those at risk from mental ill-health, are protected.

“We strongly urge the Government to implement the recommendations in our report and to take action to improve to improve the situation for the benefit of the industry and public safety. Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option.”

Minister for Patient Safety, Nadine Dorries, said:

“Far too many people have been left to live with the emotional and physical scars caused by their experience of cosmetic surgery, needing prolonged medical treatment after botched cosmetic procedures, particularly fillers.

“Patients must always come first and I am committed to protecting their safety making sure people have the right information they need to make informed decisions about cosmetic surgery and ensuring the highest quality training is accessible to all practitioners.

“This report is an important contribution to our shared understanding of the consequences of this kind of treatment and I look forward to reviewing its recommendations on how we continue to improve people’s safety.

“Anyone considering Botox, or fillers, should pause and take the time they need to consider the potential impact of surgery on both their physical and mental health, and take steps to ensure they are using a reputable, safe and qualified practitioner.”

APPG Co-Chair pressures Business Secretary to extend the VAT cut to hair, beauty, spa and wellbeing

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During Business Oral Questions in the House of Commons this week, Co-Chair of the APPG Judith Cummins MP asked the Secretary of State for Business to speak to the Chancellor about extending the 5% VAT given to the hospitality sector to hair, beauty, spa and wellbeing services.

Cummins highlighted that 41% of hair and beauty salon owners say they do not know if their businesses will be able to survive until Christmas, putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. She argued that the VAT cut was crucial to provide a much needed boost to the sector during these difficult times.

The Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma MP, responded that he “is sure this is an issue that will be looked at”.

APPG backs #ChopTheVAT campaign

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The APPG on Beauty, Aesthesis and Wellbeing is today supporting the British Beauty Council’s #ChopTheVAT campaign, calling on the Government to cut VAT from 20% to 5% for the hair, beauty and wellbeing industry as it has for the hospitality sector since July.

It is crucial that the Government provides this to provide a much-needed boost for the multi-billion pound sector to ensure it can survive the winter and to safeguard its future.

Read more in The Telegraph here.

APPG inquiry considers licensing around aesthetic treatments

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On Wednesday 21st October, the APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing held its fourth oral evidence session in its inquiry into non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

The Group is leading an important inquiry into non-surgical cosmetic procedures to investigate how standards for undertaking such treatments, and for their promotion, should be improved to support the beauty and aesthetics industry and protect public safety. You can read more about our inquiry here.

This evidence session considered the current state of the law surrounding such treatments, and consider whether the current legislative and regulatory regime is robust enough, how licensing requirements vary between devolved nations, the best practices that can be adopted and whether there should be a national standard on licensing which all local authorities should adopt.

The APPG heard from:

  • Sarah Clover, Kings Barristers
  • Charlotte Rose, Senior Environmental Health Officer at Wolverhampton Council
  • Tamara Sandoul, Policy Manager, Charted Institute for Environmental Health

The minutes of the session will be made available shortly.

APPG Co-Chair calls for VAT cut for beauty sector

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Speaking to the BBC, Co-Chair of the APPG on Beauty, Aesthesis and Wellbeing, Carolyn Harris MP, called on the Government to extend the VAT cut given to hospitality and tourism to the beauty sector.

Back in July, the Government announced a cut VAT from 20% to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sector, and this has now been extended to 31 March 2021. However no such support has been given to our £30bn hair, beauty and wellness sector.

Photo credit: BBC

Co-Chair of the APPG, Carolyn Harris MP, said:

“We really have to start thinking about this as a very serious contributor to the economy, a massive employer – they really need to have the support other sectors have had.

“I really worry that a lot of them will have gone under by Christmas at this rate

“Unless we start making sure they are protected, they are going to have to think about redundancies, or closing up – especially the mobile therapists – who have only got themselves.

“Why not give them that support now to keep to them going, tide them over, so they’re still viable when this all ends and they’re able to reopen fully.”

APPG supports Bill calling for an end to under 18’s receiving Botox and cosmetic fillers

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Conservative MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley, Laura Trott, is this month introducing a Private Members Bill which would ban under 18’s from being able to receive Botox or cosmetic fillers.

The Bill, entitled, the “Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill” will also require a doctor, registered medical practitioner, or a health professional to administer such procedures where there is a medical need in under 18s – a requirement which is currently not in place.

According to research from Save Face, a national register of Accredited practitioners, non-surgical cosmetic treatments (such as Botox and dermal fillers) generate over £2.75 billion in the UK and account for over 75% of all cosmetic enhancements carried out each year. However, unlike its surgical counterpart which has clear and defined laws as to who can undertake procedures such as breast enlargement and facelift operations, the non-surgical cosmetic industry remains almost entirely unregulated; meaning that legally, cosmetic injections can be administered by anyone.

In the last 12 months Save Face received 1,617 patient complaints – an increase of 73% when compared with the year previous.

Of the complaints:

  • 81% related to dermal filler treatments, and 13% to Botox.
  • 86% were administered by beauticians, hairdressers and other non-healthcare professionals.
  • 79% found their practitioners on social media – and citied cheap deals, time limited offers, celebrity treatment packages, and the use of reality tv programme celebrity images as the reason they chose them.
  • In 82% of Botox related complaints, patients reported that they were not made aware that Botox was a prescription only medicine and 77% did not have a face to face consultation with a prescriber.
  • A staggering 45% did not have a consultation of any kind.
  • 80% of the complaints related to the treatment of derma fillers, and 2 patients noted blindness and visual disturbance as a complication.
  • 45 of the patients were under 18s – with the youngest just 15-years old.
  • Of the under-18s, 42 received lip filler treatment, 2 had cheek fillers and one a non-surgical nose job.

In support of the Bill, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, Co-Chairs of the APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing said:

“We are seriously concerned that there are no age restrictions on who can get Botox or fillers and we fully support the aims of this Bill to protect young people.

For too long there was been a complete lack of robust, consistent and enforceable standards for undertaking these treatments, and no accountability or consequence for malpractice. As the aesthetics industry continues to grow rapidly, we are also increasing concerned about the advertising and social media promotion of these treatments and how to make sure vulnerable young people are protected. The absence of standards leaves practitioners with no support and customers with no guarantee of safety.

We are looking at these important issues as part of our inquiry into non-surgical cosmetic treatments, and urge the Government to back this Bill and take action which is long over-due.”

Speaking ahead of the Bills Second Reading in the House of Commons, Laura Trott MP said:

“This is a largely unregulated industry, and so the data we have only represents the tip of the iceberg. We know there are huge pressures on young people to conform to the unrealistic and unattainable ideals they see on social media. However, despite all the dangers there is currently no legal age limit for dermal filler or non-surgical procedures. This means any 15-year-old schoolgirl could just walk into a shop and get their lips injected by someone with no qualifications. This cannot be right”.

“I promised during the election that I would focus on helping children and families, and this is one of the steps I am taking to deliver on that that promise. My Bill will stop the dangerous and unnecessary non-medical procedures that can ruin children’s lives, as well as ensuring any treatments that are required, are done so by a medical practitioner”.

APPG Comment: The Telegraph, ‘As one of last sectors to reopen, why have beauty businesses received the least financial support?’

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In a comment piece for The Telegraph, Co-Chairs of the APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing, Carolyn Harris MP and Judith Cummins MP, wrote:

Walking along any High Street in the UK, you are sure find salons that provide hair and beauty services and wellness facilities that provide spa treatments and massages. These businesses are the heart of our local communities, providing important services that support wellbeing, local jobs and contributing masses to the wider economy. However, the survival of business and jobs hangs in the balance and they need urgent financial support.

As Co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing, we’ve worked with representatives from across the industry since the pandemic hit as we began to try and secure them the support and recognition they deserve. Time and time again the sector has found itself at the bottom of the list, and the Chancellor’s Winter Economy Plan was no different.

Beauty, spa and wellness services were told to remain closed in July and August, with limited sources of income, as the Government deemed them too high risk. Yet we are aware of the remarkable work they have done to ensure their businesses are COVID-secure, procuring the correct PPE, reducing their capacity to allow for social distancing and ensure proper cleaning regimes between each appointment, however this has come at a significant cost.

Having missed out on their peak summer season, the industry watched as their peers in hospitality benefitted from the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. As one of last sectors allowed to reopen, the industry has received the least financial support from the Government. This cannot continue.

We have heard worrying statistics from the National Hair and Beauty Federation that 44% of businesses could not guarantee job security for their employees and that 41% of businesses are not sure they can survive until Christmas. The UK Spa Association stressed that the continued – and unexplained – closure of saunas and steam rooms have affected 77% of their members, impacting their ability to generate revenue and bring their staff back to work.

It remains clear that the Government does not understand the true value of the hair, beauty, spa and wellness industries. We have campaigned for months and wrote countless letters to Ministers highlighting the £30 billion contribution the industry makes to the economy; the opportunities it provides to young people, women and local entrepreneurs; and the important role it plays in keeping the Great British High Street alive.

This is why we are calling on the Government to introduce a ‘Treat Out to Help Out’ scheme, to inject the stimulus the industry needs to get back on its feet. The Treasury must also extend the VAT reduction that hospitality and leisure enjoy to hair, beauty, spa and wellness services. With these measures in place, we can create demand for these services and provide a much needed boost to the sector.

With the months ahead looking increasingly uncertain, the Treasury must recognise the limited cash flow business owners and individuals in the sector are facing. Businesses also need reassurance that they will be supported in the event of a local lockdown, as we know they will be the first to be forced to shut their doors. That is why we’re calling on the Government to provide extra financial support for businesses in hotspots, now and in the future, to ensure they are financially viable once restrictions lift.

Times are tough for many. But no sector has been overlooked as much as the hair, beauty, spa and wellness industry. Many have asked us why this is the case. We sincerely hope it is not because the industry is dominated by women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. However if lockdown restrictions continue and financial support is not given to those in the industry, it is certain we will see the loss of many of our salons, spas and wellness facilities, along with the economic and social benefits that it brings.

APPG explores what can be done to increase representation of visible differences in beauty

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On 30th September, the APPG held a panel event on Visible Differences in the Beauty Industry with Changing Faces and Avon UK, to explore the experiences of the visible difference community and learn about the work Changing Faces and Avon are doing to increase the representation of people with visible differences in the beauty industry.

The Group heard from Catherine Deakin, Director of Fundraising and Communications at Changing Faces and Lauren Payne, Brand & Causes Manager at Avon, in addition to three of Charging Faces’ inspirational champions, Amba Smith, Tulsi Vagjiani and Natalie Ambersley.

Changing Faces, their ambassadors, Tulsi, Amba and Natalie, and their corporate partner, Avon UK, spoke to the APPG about their #PledgeToBeSeen campaign and living life with a visible difference.

Left to right: Amba Smith, Tulsi Vagjiani, Natalie Ambersley.

One in five people in the UK today lives with a “visible difference” like a birth mark, scar or skin condition that makes them look different. Sadly, they face exclusion and discrimination in all areas of their lives. One in four will experience a hate crime because of how they look. And more than half of those with a visible difference feel completely ignored in advertising – whether that’s for a beauty product, in job recruitment or public services. By ignoring this community, businesses are missing many opportunities, particularly now as they need more customers through their doors and visiting their websites.

Changing Faces, the UK’s charity for everyone with visible difference, launched its #PledgeToBeSeen campaign so more businesses will sign up to recognise people with visible differences.

Speaking in Parliament following the session, Co-Chair of the APPG Carolyn Harris MP, said:

Will [the Minister] join me in congratulating Avon as the first business to sign the pledge and who have featured women with visible differences as models, and will you encourage more businesses to join them by committing to the government communications service to signing this important pledge and featuring more people who look different in its campaigns and adverts?