Action on 'political and economic abuses'

Psychologists Against Austerity is launched at the House of Lords. Ella Rhodes reports.

A team of psychologists are aiming to start a conversation about the impact of austerity on services, individuals, communities and society. Their Psychologists Against Austerity group was officially launched in March after many of its members felt increasingly frustrated with supporting people who had been the victim of a range of what it calls ‘unfair political and economic abuses’. Representatives had a letter on the topic published in our March issue.

Carl Walker (University of Brighton) told The Psychologist that the group not only aimed to start a discourse around austerity matters in psychology but wanted to publicise links between austerity policies and mental distress, using psychological evidence which, he said, has not been prevalent in the debate so far. Dr Walker led the European Community Psychology Association task force on austerity and mental health. He said: ‘Sally Zlotowitz and I discussed trying to mobilise the London community psychology network to see if any people would be involved in some austerity projects. We called a meeting last summer and a group of interested psychologists worked together to decide on, design and publicise the current campaign.’

The launch event, at the House of Lords, saw a talk from Richard Pemberton from the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, as well as speakers on experiences of austerity from Disabled People Against Cuts and disability rights campaigners Black Triangle. Laura McGrath (University of East London) introduced the new group’s briefing report.  

Walker said the group will meet twice a month with the short-term aim of mobilising psychologists around the country to play a more visible role in the austerity discourse in the time leading up to the General Election. ‘This could include contributing to our stories of everyday austerity on our website, writing to their local MPs and writing to their local papers to try to provide their experience on the impacts of austerity and the damaging languages of austerity on the people they work with. We feel that austerity economics and the discourses proliferated in the public domain have been damaging. Psychologists could play a role in bringing a degree of professional legitimacy to rebalancing some of the fictions that have been popular in the public domain.’

The group is planning a Week of Action on the week beginning 20 April, aimed at those who work in psychological services. They plan to have a set of five actions which people can carry out during the week, as well as encouraging people to share their experiences on social media and on the group’s website.

- See also our September 2013 'Opinion' feature and April 2014 special issue.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber