President's column

Writing this, I am looking out over the sparkling bay at Portrush, County Antrim, at the Annual Conference of the Northern Ireland Branch. It has been a good conference – committed people, innovative talks. It reminds me of three things. First, the success of the Society’s conference system does not just depend on the attendance figure at the Annual Conference, but on the total number of members attending conferences all over the UK throughout the year. Second, these regional conferences are crucial for members as they enable people to attend relatively easily so as to achieve CPD requirements. Third is the importance in general of Branch activities. The breadth of activity of the Northern Ireland Branch, for example, is admirable. It made every effort to reach out to people, with stands at an education show in Dublin, an annual careers day, a stand at Balmoral Agricultural Show, and careers literature for university open days. It also held specialist events to serve its members, with a conference on the criminal justice system and workshops on diversity, psychosis and schema therapy, and of course this conference.
Writing this, I am looking out over the sparkling bay at Portrush, County Antrim, at the Annual Conference of the Northern Ireland Branch. It has been a good conference – committed people, innovative talks. It reminds me of three things. First, the success of the Society’s conference system does not just depend on the attendance figure at the Annual Conference, but on the total number of members attending conferences all over the UK throughout the year. Second, these regional conferences are crucial for members as they enable people to attend relatively easily so as to achieve CPD requirements. Third is the importance in general of Branch activities. The breadth of activity of the Northern Ireland Branch, for example, is admirable. It made every effort to reach out to people, with stands at an education show in Dublin, an annual careers day, a stand at Balmoral Agricultural Show, and careers literature for university open days. It also held specialist events to serve its members, with a conference
on the criminal justice system and workshops on diversity, psychosis and schema therapy, and of course this conference.
    
It has been a problem until now that not all members have a Branch – various parts of the UK not being geographically covered. At the first meeting of the Strategic Plan Monitoring Group recently we noted how this deficit is being remedied. Following the ‘Filling the gaps’ article in the March issue, the Trustees approved the formation of a London and Home Counties Branch. A vote will take place, and if in favour a detailed proposal will be presented to the Trustees. Also, the Wessex & Wight Branch is hoping to extend its boundaries and to rename, and a new Eastern England Branch is under consideration. So we could soon have the facility for all members to become part of a local psychological community.

The monitoring group reviewed the strategic aims from A to Z, and although only six months into the plan it already exerts a coordinating influence. For example, I mentioned in my last column a new Policy Support Unit, which has now been established. It is based in the Publications and Communications Directorate at Leicester and is headed by Christina Docchar, formerly the Board Administrator for the Professional Practice Board. The unit, still in its infancy, will provide a much-needed central and transparent communication and support point for external policy responses.
It is currently developing a protocol and process to define how it will operate, and there will be wide consultation of subsystems to this end.

The monitoring group also noted how the organisation itself is moving on. For example, the senior management team now attend Trustees’ meetings as a matter of routine; there is an induction for all new Trustees; Trustees from the Representative Council will now hold the post for three years rather than just the one; the Trustees’ minutes are now available to staff; we have been pleased to recognise a trade union, Amicus; and secondments within the office have been initiated to allow better staff development.

If this sounds inward-looking, then regarding taking psychology to society the funding programme for public engagements events is now well established, and bids for 2005/6 are invited by 24 June 2005. Each engagement grant is to a maximum of £3000 and should focus on the general public, school students, higher education non-psychology students, other professions and learned societies, government and policy makers and service users including employers. You can fill in the form and return it electronically to Suzanne Jefford at [email protected].

Reaching out still further, for six years from 1994 to 2000 I worked on a project funded by the Department for International Development to set up the first clinical psychology training in Bangladesh. My joint coordinator was Anis Rahman at the University of Dhaka, and a wide range of UK psychologists went to teach in Bangladesh. I cannot thank everyone, but people like Roger Young, Garfield Harmon, Camilla Herbert, Liz Campbell, Barbara Hedge, Alessandra Lemma, Chris Gilleard, Jan Aldridge and Nigel Gordon all did tremendous work. We also had visitors to the UK from Bangladesh, including three of the Bangladeshi trainees. One of the essential aims of any DfID programme is to be sustainable, so when the project finished it was necessary to stand back to see if the three-year training programme survived and was still on track to achieve its primary aim, to ‘alleviate poverty and disadvantage associated with mental illness’. I have now had feedback and I am delighted to see that the course has survived and is providing trained psychologists to tackle the country’s issues. For example Arunthia is working as an HIV counsellor, Nafisa is receiving further training in drug addiction, Saifun Nesa is with the NGO that works with the victims of torture, Zahir, Kamal and Farah now also teach at the university or the National Institute of Mental Health to pass on their knowledge, Shaila is learning new skills in community psychology, Mejbahul now has a clinical psychology post at the country’s largest psychiatric hospital, in Pubna, Monir is in the UK developing his skills, and Salma works with another NGO on survival after acid attacks. The message is that everywhere there are committed young people who want to enter the profession, and that psychology delivers.

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