Inclusivity in psychology hopefuls

Sofia Janjua, Assistant Psychologist, writes.

I call for organisations advertising for Assistant Psychologists (AP) to carefully consider the value they place on these roles.

In my AP job search, I am stunned by some of the salaries offered. AP roles, within and outside the NHS are generally between £19,000 and £23,000 at best, with some as little as £15,000! “Surely that is below the poverty line?” I think.

An online search finds that ‘In 2015, the poverty threshold in the UK was £12,567’ (www.ons.gov.uk). So, a budding, enthusiastic Assistant Psychologist, with a Psychology degree (essential and minimum of a 2:1), with a Master’s degree and two years' of Assistant Psychologist experience (desirable), can be the grateful recipient of a salary that is merely £2,500 above the poverty threshold. At least the salary is so low that there is some relief from student finance.

On top of the qualification requirements, APs are sometimes expected to have their own car for travel within the role. Where in the £15,000 a year are they expected to budget purchasing and maintaining a car? Organisations reimburse mileage, yet every mile decreases a cars value and speeds up the need for a new one.

I am also alerted to Honorary/Voluntary AP positions. Such positions are understandable say, for a recent graduate living at their parents’ house. However, many young professionals are leading financially independent lives, sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstance. They simply cannot afford to apply for positions that are poorly paid or unpaid. Those who accept such positions often rely heavily on parental or other social support. An individual from a less privileged background would struggle to meet the desired criteria. Surely, if the field of Psychology is seeking to improve equality and diversity of their members, then they need to be creating the positions to include these individuals. The profession is currently excluding a large demographic.

The competitiveness of the AP post, makes obtaining an AP role seem like an enormous achievement. It feels synonymous to the plight of struggling actors in Hollywood getting their first big break. If you have an AP post, you're lucky, and you should be grateful. It doesn’t matter what the first role is. It doesn’t matter where you relocate. It doesn’t matter how much you get paid. You should just be happy to be there.

We are happy to be here and we are grateful. We still want a decent standard of living. We are not disillusioned millennials who need to put down our avocado toast. We work hard, we are experienced, we are driven and we are worth so much more than is being offered.

- Sofia Janjua, Assistant Psychologist 

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