Safeguarding children and young people
Do you think that child protection has nothing to do with your role as a psychologist? Then the Society’s Child Protection Working Party would like you to read their new portfolio, available online to members via www.bps.org.uk/ppb. The portfolio begins with the Society’s position paper of 2003, revised to reflect the latest guidance from the government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda (see tinyurl.com/2od7jn). Two additional sections complete the portfolio: a basic awareness guide for psychologists who are unfamiliar with child protection issues, and a practice guideline.
The position paper outlines the professional practice framework for all chartered psychologists in relation to child protection, with the aim of raising the profile of child protection across specialities of applied psychology and promoting shared minimum standards. It states:
As Psychologists we share a professional interest in people’s psychological functioning and are therefore in a particularly relevant position to identify interactions or circumstances that impact on the health and development of children in any setting in which we find ourselves. This does not only apply to clinicians who undertake direct work with children and families in a variety of settings such as early years, schools, clinics or residential care provisions. It applies equally to work with individual adult clients, seen for instance in clinics, hospitals, and prisons who may make historical disclosures of abuse or raise concerns about child protection within their families or communities. It also applies in our professional and personal networks.
The second section provides guidance for chartered psychologists who do not perceive the main focus of their work as being involved with the welfare of children. Several scenarios offer an opportunity for reflection, training or CPD, including an occupational psychologist on a home visit to a worker who has walked out finding her depressed and with her daughter off school; a student becoming distressed about family history during a lecture on eating disorders; a woman with severe depression revealing a history of sexual abuse by a family member who continues to have access to grandchildren; the son of a head injury patient who is experiencing extreme mood swings; a boy in nursery school with behavioural difficulties who flinches when he is touched; an angry prisoner due for release back to children he now thinks aren’t his; and a young sportswoman jealous of the attention a team mate gets from her coach.
The final section offers guidance on how to apply informed professional judgement and make practice decisions when considering concerns about child abuse.
It aims to assist individual practitioners in their day-to-day work, including ways of approaching dilemmas and problems when the way forward is not clear.
Gill Evans, convenor of the working party, said: ‘It is to be hoped that members of all Divisions – whether experienced practitioners or psychologists who have not yet given the issue much thought –
will take forward the recommendations of the position paper and seek to ensure that child protection is embedded within initial training and ongoing CPD. I wish to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of all those who have contributed to the various stages of the publication of the child protection portfolio.’
o The child protection portfolio and updated position paper will be available on line from www.bps.org.uk/ppb –
see the section ‘PPB position papers and working party reports’. A hardcopy of the portfolio can be purchased
Social psychology has huge potential in informing policy, but is all too often deeply buried within academic journals. Now this could be changing, thanks to a new initiative launched by the Social Psychology Section and sponsored by the Society’s public engagement strategy. The first of these events, ‘Psychological Research on the Landscape of Prejudice’, took place in March in the Cabinet Office, and was chaired by Professor Diane Houston. Invited speakers were Professor Dominic Abrams, Professor Miles Hewstone and Professor Richard Crisp. Their talks focused on finding a common framework for evaluating and tackling prejudice.Professor Abrams described a selection of key findings from the Abrams and Houston National Survey of Prejudice, undertaken for the Equalities Review. This is the first survey to provide a comprehensive comparison of prejudice affecting six different equality strands – disability, age, religion, race, sex, and sexuality. Findings show that the same person may be highly prejudiced against one strand but favourable towards another. People also express prejudice in different forms: overt hostility against some groups; patronising and subtly undermining against others. Therefore, efforts at combating prejudice need to focus on the nature of relationships between groups and on interventions to counter the negative effects of stereotypes.Professor Hewstone developed the first theme by reporting on experimental and survey evidence about the effects of intergroup contact on intergroup attitudes and perceptions. Across a wide range of contexts he showed how frequent positive contact between groups can improve intergroup attitudes. Professor Crisp focused on the effects of stereotypes on people’s performance, presenting evidence related to gender, race and age. Findings suggest different strategies to overcome stereotype-based barriers, such as blurring group boundaries and increasing intergroup contact.The event was attended by policy makers interested in equality and feedback was extremely positive. According to Uma Moorthy (Strategic Policy Team, Home Office), ‘this kind of dialogue between research and policy is always useful and we should be doing more of it’. Sujata Ray (Age Concern) said ‘as more academics reach out and engage their potential users in this way, things can only get better’. Alexa Ispas and Georgina Randsley de Moura
Occ Psych Training
The training requirements for occupational psychology are changing. For more information, and to see how this might affect you, go to www.bps.org.uk/exams and follow the link to occupational psychology, or contact John Duggan in the Qualifications team on 0116 252 9512 or [email protected].
From the policy support unit
Members continue to be busy responding to external consultations, with 13 responses submitted in the past month. Three of these concerned guidelines proposed by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Two sets of the NICE guidelines, relating to aspects of treatment for drug misuse (psychological interventions and detoxification), were broadly welcomed by the Society and the guidelines development group was congratulated on having put together a succinct and timely review of the evidence of effectiveness for a wide variety of psychosocial interventions. However, a number of proposals were made for the improvements, including recommendations for: (a) a clearer reflection of the complementary nature of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions in relation to drug misuse; (b) care to be taken over the generalisability of empirical findings on contingency management, (c) an evaluation of resource implications; and (d) an increased focus on certain therapeutic techniques. The third NICE consultation concerned guidelines for smoking cessation and, unusually, these were welcomed without reservation.
A large number of consultations relating to children continue to be published, and the Society has recently responded to two from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). The first of these concerned safeguarding children from abuse relating to a belief in spirit possession. The second, Quality Standards for Young People’s Information, Advice and Guidance, is one of the latest in the Youth Matters series, which forms part of an ongoing DfES drive to improve standards in services for children and young people. While a number of commendable features were identified in this consultation, several improvements were again suggested. These concerned the influence of peers, the importance of involving parents, the need to challenge common dysfunctional beliefs and the need to provide social venues where functional and engaging role models might be found.
Young people were also the focus of the consultation on the ‘Fit Futures Implementation Plan’ which was lodged by the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland. The key tasks proposed in the plan were considered insufficient in a number of respects, including their ability to provide real choice for the whole population, for improving nutrition as well as increasing physical activity and for their lack of reach. Several suggestions for modifications and additions to the key tasks were proposed.
Given the current political emphasis on climate change, it is not surprising that a number of consultations have recently been lodged on this issue. One from the Welsh Assembly, Planning for Climate Change, was recently commended for the serious commitment it presented to confronting key issues and its attempt to both mitigate the causes of climate change and facilitate adaptation to the consequences. The Society’s response emphasised the importance of identifying the reasons why people may not always make the best decisions from an environmental point of view, despite holding positive attitudes towards environmental protection.
For more information on these and other responses, along with open consultations, see www.bps.org.uk/consult.
Ethics Column No.10
The recording of meetings, interviews and formal therapy sessions is seen by many as a useful way of obtaining an accurate record of events. Moreover, for many trainees it is a ‘requirement’ of their training in order to help assess their development. So, what are the points to bear in mind when making recordings?
There are two main areas of consideration; the legal requirements and the ethical issues.
From a legal perspective, recordings (be they audio tape, video tape or digital, such as MP3) are considered in the same light as any other form of ‘data collection’ for example written notes, questionnaires, etc. They are therefore subject to the ‘data protection principles’ and other conditions stipulated in the Data Protection Act 1998. Accordingly, any ‘copy’ or ‘part copy’, ‘transcription’ or ‘part transcription’ made from the recording is subject to the same data protection principles.
The ethical viewpoint follows a very similar pattern to that of the Data Protection Act concerning areas such as confidentiality, consent and security, but with the additional caveat that no person shall be treated less favourably or have services withheld if they decline to take part in a recording process.
Neither the Society’s Code of Ethics and Conduct nor the Data Protection Act 1998 seeks to prohibit the use of data in research. Section 33 of the Act and paragraph 3.3 of the Code both give direction and guidance in the use of collected data in research.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that disclosure of tape recordings can be demanded by a court in the same way as any other information considered relevant. Whilst there is a right to ‘petition’ the court against production on, for example, grounds of confidentiality or a breach of contract, no ‘automatic right’ such as the ‘legal privilege’ enjoyed by solicitors can be claimed. The court is therefore the final arbiter in the matter of production.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 has made new rules concerning the admission of ‘hearsay evidence’ in criminal trails. However, the legislation is extremely complex, and at the moment it is unclear whether a recording containing for instance, a disclosure of a criminal offence in a situation where the victim is for example in fear of giving evidence, could be produced and used in related court proceedings. Advice and careful consideration therefore must be given when making recordings in circumstances where the consequences may go beyond the original purpose for which the recording was made.
Research Board work-in-progress
A Working Party on Memory and the Law has been convened to develop guidelines for the legal profession on the fallibility of human memory and the appropriateness of expert testimony. A number of international experts have also been requested to provide guidance on the guidelines as they are developed.
A Working Party on Revising Ethical Guidelines for Psychological Research has also been convened to review the Society’s existing Guidelines for Minimum Standards of Ethical Approval in Psychological Research and the Ethical Guidelines for Conducting Research with Human Participants.
The working party will be considering revised the guidelines to reflect standards of best practice as opposed to minimum standards.The Working Party on Conducting Research on the Internet has produced its final report and this would be considered by the Research Board at its meeting in April 2007. Similarly, the Working Party on Expert Witnesses is also nearing the completion of the revision of the Guidelines for Psychologists as Expert Witnesses.
The Steering Group on Postdoctoral Researchers and New Academics is considering the recommendations from the Report on the Survey of Final Year PhD Students and Postdoctoral Researchers. This includes the development of a Society-based postdoctoral network as well as a dedicated website and a number of training workshops.
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber