Contact Liz Campbell via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]
It is difficult to know where to start when you are writing your first President’s column of a new term. I suppose the polite thing to do is to tell you a little about myself and to set the scene for the coming year.
I’m a senior lecturer in the University of Glasgow and have always had university jobs, but, in parallel, I have had honorary clinical positions within the NHS. I belong to three Divisions of the Society (Teachers and Researchers, Forensic, and Clinical), two Sections and one Branch.
Within the last year, I have also acquired the title of Chartered Scientist and EuroPsy Registered Psychologist from the Society. These two developments are important in benchmarking British psychologists both in terms of other scientific colleagues in the UK and psychological colleagues throughout the 34 European countries that make up the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA). The EuroPsy benchmark is being piloted in six European countries with a view to it being rolled out fully to all the member associations of EFPA from July 2008.
I have a particular interest in postgraduate training and in the accreditation of professional trainings. I have been involved in the Society through a number of different committees throughout many years. Two recent major positions that I have occupied were Chair of the Membership and Professional Training Board and then a term as Chair of Representative Council.
I particularly enjoy participating in the Representative Council of the Society. This is the body through which all the different member networks share their views and meet one another. When I first started attending Representative Council, the Council used to meet in rather formal and intimidating settings such as the British Academy. The British Academy is a very grand and imposing building, but it did tend to make for somewhat stilted and formal discussions at Council. Now that we have space in the London office to hold Council meetings, it feels that we have achieved a much more relaxed and interactive mode of operation for that body.
The Council has been an invaluable sounding board and source of advice to the Board of Trustees over the last year as we have consulted on and formulated the Society’s policy in relation to statutory regulation. In March we submitted our collective response to the Department of Health’s draft legislation. There are a number of unresolved matters that we will be engaging with the DoH over in the coming months.
Being part of the Representative Council really brings home how much the Society relies on the enthusiasm, commitment and engagement of its members to pursue our ends and to deliver on our objectives.
The Society really only can only function because of the vast stores of goodwill and commitment to the discipline of psychology that reside in our membership. Some of our members of course do not live in the UK but are overseas members, and it is more difficult for them to have an active involvement in the Society; but it is
a mark of our standing internationally that we have so many foreign members and affiliates.
I was thrilled to meet a number of overseas members recently when I visited the Psychology Department at Kuwait University. I am looking forward in this coming year to meeting many more members as I attend
a variety of events, meetings and conferences.
I would like to pay tribute to the work that Professor Pam Maras has done in her year as President. Pam has put huge amounts of energy into what has been a very busy and challenging year. The Society has been fortunate to have had such an engaged and involved President.
The coming year continues to offer challenges to the Society. The senior management team and the office staff have been putting their minds to ways in which we can streamline our activities so that we can make sure that we remain financially sound while pursuing our key objectives. We will continue to harmonise our activities over the coming year, so that we can continue to deliver to members, to the public and to the discipline, while being prudent custodians of our resources.
I would be very pleased to hear from any members if they have any issues about Society business or any specific concerns. I can be contacted via the Society’s Leicester office ([email protected]).
In addition, the Society’s website is a valuable resource for members and contains a huge amount of information that members will find useful. The website also gives a list of key contacts for the different areas of activity in the office such as membership or Society qualifications.
The Society is nothing more than its members and you are the key resource that the Society has. I would urge you to be as fully engaged and involved with the Society’s activities as you are able to, given your own commitments. It is a very rewarding and valuable activity.
Professor Jane Oakhill
Jane Oakhill is an international expert on children’s reading difficulties, and she is one of the main authorities on reading comprehension impairments in the UK. She currently is the holder of a personal chair in psychology at the University of Sussex, where she has spent most of her career, with visiting academic appointments in the Netherlands, Paris and Denmark.
From the earliest stages of her career, Professor Oakhill has pursued two major research interests in tandem: thinking and reasoning, and text processing. It is this blend of expertise that makes her empirical work on children’s reading comprehension impairments distinctive. Through experimental, longitudinal
and training studies she has pursued the theory that a major source of difficulty for ‘poor comprehenders’ is their inability to make inferences. This work has had a major impact internationally not only because of its theoretical importance but also because of the practical applications of the work in developing interventions for children with reading difficulties.
Professor Oakhill has authored or edited eight books, and she has more than 67 articles in peer-reviewed journals. She is a widely sought-after speaker at international conferences and has had an important influence on practitioners in the field of reading. Her work was recognised for its excellence at an early stage in her career by the award of British Psychology Society’s Spearman Medal and has since attracted substantial research funding.
The award of a Fellowship of the Society recognises her scholarship and the influence of her work not only in the academic discipline of psychology but also on professional practice in related fields.
Members shape public policy
In the space of a year, over 230 members have helped to shape public policy by contributing to the Society’s responses to consultations on a wide range of topics relevant to psychology. The Society responds to around a hundred consultations on public policy each year, bringing psychology to the attention of governments and other public bodies.
Harriet Gross, who chairs the Society’s Parliamentary and Policy Group said: ‘The members who contribute to responses are therefore instrumental in promoting a wider understanding of psychology and the roles of psychologists, as well as in shaping strategy and policy.’ This important part of the Society’s work is carried out by members, supported by the Policy Support Unit (PSU), which manages and guides the consultation process.
Professor Jane Ireland, Chair of the Division of Forensic Psychology told us: ‘Being able to have some influence over policy and publicising the value of psychology as a science is one of the most valuable aspects of assisting with consultations.’
Just some of the consulting bodies the PSU deals with regularly include: the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Health, the devolved nations’ governments, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Qualifications & Curriculum Authority and the Healthcare Commission.
Harriet Gross said that the importance of getting involved has been recognised by members of all the Society’s Divisions and many of its other groups. However, she stressed that it’s not just groups who can contribute
– ‘all Society members can take part in any consultation, and play an important role in shaping the Society’s message and, most importantly, in getting it heard’.
Professor Graham Turpin, Director of the Division of Clinical Psychology’s Professional Standards Unit told us: ‘We all know it is essential for the Society to comment on public policy issues but if we are honest, we are personally daunted by the task. The PSU provides the information required, coordinates the replies and chases the procrastinators, which leaves members with the easy task of thinking up a sensible and psychologically informed response.’
Harriet urges members to read the PSU’s monthly column (see below), which gives brief outlines of many of the most recent consultation responses. Details of those currently under preparation, together with Society responses to previous consultations, are available on the website – www.bps.org.uk/consult.
Members are encouraged to get involved by e-mailing the PSU at [email protected] when they see a consultation of interest on the website. Alternatively, anyone wishing to be included on the database of interested members, and be notified of future consultations relevant to their individual areas of interest, can download and return the ‘Areas of Interest’ form (via the link
at the top right-hand side of the web page).
Martin Fisher, Consultations Coordinator for the Division
of Forensic Psychology said: ‘Since leading on responses to consultations for the DFP I have realised the real influence
that the contributions of psychologists can make.’
This month's PSU activity:
In addition to the two consultations from the Health Professions Council (HPC) concerning the Standards of Proficiency and Threshold Levels for Entry to the Register which will become relevant if the government gives the HPC responsibility for the statutory regulation of applied psychologists (see www.bps.org.uk/statreg for further information on these), responses to eight other consultations were submitted during February. These included the following (details of consulting bodies provided in brackets):
I Comprehensive Area Assessment (Audit Commission and other bodies);
I Consultation Questionnaire on the National Advocacy Qualification (Care Services Improvement Partnership).
I Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006: Independent Safeguarding Authority Scheme consultation (Department for Children, Schools and Families and other bodies);
I Strategic Plan for Reducing Re-offending 2008–11 (National Offender Management Service)
Department of Health review of the diversion of individuals with mental health problems from the criminal justice system and prison
The review, conducted by the Bradley Review Team, was welcomed by the Society, particularly in respect of the need to promote cross-departmental functioning to best meet the needs of service users, in a balanced, evidenced and properly resourced way. However, the Welsh Branch expressed their concern that the review was conducted at a time when two reviews of secure mental health services in Wales are ongoing.
Two draft reports from ENTO relating to their counselling standards were broadly supported but two others concerning ENTO’s coaching and mentoring standards were less well received. The Special Group in Coaching Psychology noted several factual errors in the latter and pointed out that both the profession of psychology in general and the domain of coaching psychology in particular were not sufficiently well presented in the reports. In addition, boundary issues between coaching and mentoring and psychology were considered to have been insufficiently addressed.
Research Excellence Framework
The Joint Committee for Psychology in Higher Education responded to the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s consultation on the assessment and funding of higher education research post-2008. The Committee urged strongly that psychology should be treated within the Framework as a single, science-based discipline. The Committee also argued against the proposal to split clinical psychology and neuroscience away from the rest of psychology and identified both a number of limitations of the proposed measures of quality and some potential sources of bias.
The Society’s responses to consultations on public policy are coordinated by the Policy Support Unit (PSU). All members are eligible
to contribute to responses and all interest is warmly welcomed.
Please contact the PSU for further information ([email protected]; 0116 252 9926/9577). Details of consultations are available at: www.bps.org.uk/consult.
Working with older people?
If you are a psychologist whose work brings you into contact with older people, a forthcoming Society training event might be of interest.
A Special Interest Group of the Division
of Clinical Psychology is putting on a day of workshops focusing on the application of a range of psychological approaches to working with older people. Dr Kristina Lee, Clinical and Academic Tutor at the Salomons Centre and one of the event organisers, says: ‘We are very keen to encourage those from other specialties to consider working with older people. We have an expertise in this area and would like to offer training to other specialties to enhance their confidence to work with people over 65 years. There are many specialty areas that are not age-specific – e.g. neuropsychology services, eating disorder services, rehab and assertive outreach services, learning disability services, health psychology services, trauma services etc., etc. We are hoping to access these groups.’
The move towards breaking down barriers in terms of age cut-offs for services and rooting out age discrimination in services means that older people should be more likely to access services that have traditionally supported working-age adults. ‘There is a lot of work to be done to encourage older people to access these services and to help psychologists feel confident to support them,’ says Dr Lee. ‘This training day hopes to encourage this process.’
The day features workshops on the use of cognitive analytic therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychoanalytic approaches with older people.
The event takes place at the Gujarat Hindu Centre, South Meadow Lane, Preston, on 22 May 2008. It is free to PSIGE members and £30 to non-PSIGE members. Register your interest now with Ange Brown at [email protected].
I For further information please contact Tina Lee on [email protected].
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