From the President, January 2021

BPS president Dr Hazel McLaughlin on the Society’s policy theme, From Poverty to Flourishing, which continues into 2021.

Covid-19, as a time of change and uncertainty, enables us to question priorities and to focus on what really matters. Relationships are increasingly important, and we are more aware of the significantly different circumstances faced by people across the UK. It is within this context that I re ect on the BPS Senate vote on the priority for policy development in 2019. Last year members’ choice was to focus on ‘From poverty to flourishing’, and this became more pertinent as 2020 progressed.

Indeed, we have continued this theme as the core policy priority for 2021, and rightly so. At the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Eighth Secretary-General said ‘saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth... these are one and the same fight’.

The wider impact of this pandemic has highlighted inequalities and the short, medium and longer-term impact of poverty, especially on children and the elderly. The treasury’s economic projections highlight challenges ahead across the UK with more adverse impact in some geographies and within certain population groups. The slow economic recovery is likely to mean tough times for many people during 2021 and beyond. The Senate campaign is progressing well and the BPS is working with key decision makers to highlight the psychological evidence.

There is still much to do, but we are taking positive, early steps in this area. Our policy team has been working with parliamentarians and, through the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology, is liaising with MPs to enable the issue to be reviewed and to focus on what a flourishing society looks like in the 2020s.

The BPS has engaged with key psychological experts so that they can give evidence to this group, alongside experts from other fields, to produce a comprehensive, evidence-based view for MPs to consider as they address these challenges.

In addition, the society is collating evidence to provide a substantial response to a new House of Lords Covid-19 Committee inquiry into the impact of increasing digitisation on wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated our reliance on digital solutions, for everything from our weekly shop or to virtual meetings with family members to the commercial realities of digitisation. It is undoubtedly true that digital solutions will be a part of our daily lives into the future.

The growing body of psychological research into the mental health impact of increased time spent online is also pertinent in this context. In this Covid-19 and post-Covid world, the way we interact and how we use technology has accelerated and will develop further. The blended work environment, the impact on education and the need to access digital solutions raises questions around who has access to these technologies and how best to use them.

This develops the earlier BPS submission to the committee’s call for evidence on the long-term implications of the pandemic, which you can read on the website ( policy/bps-response-house-lords-covid-19-committee-long- term-implications-pandemic).

This pandemic has brought into focus the inequalities and the poverty that exists in our society and highlights the relevance of the policy campaign for the 2020s. There is a role for psychology especially in the way we articulate the research and the practical implications.

Campaigns such as Marcus Rashford’s on free school meals highlight there is a real public appetite for positive changes to come out of this pandemic. Let’s build on the psychology and on the contribution of psychologists as the UK emerges from this stage to recovery from Covid-19. As Bill Gates said, ‘if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act’. I invite you to engage with the BPS and the ‘From Poverty to Flourishing’ policy campaign.

- Dr Hazel McLaughlin is President of the British Psychological Society.

Contact her at [email protected] 

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