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Presidential Blog

Fulfilling our purpose

12 July 2017 | by Nicola Gale

Our Society exists to make things better for people, a purpose that should run through the core of everything we do.

In the words of our new impact statement, the purpose of our work is that:

‘People are equipped with the everyday psychological skills and knowledge to navigate a complex world, knowing themselves and others better. Everyone can access evidence-based psychology to enhance their lives, communities and wider society.’

Yesterday (Tuesday 11th July) saw the inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology, whose purpose is to raise awareness amongst parliamentarians and policymakers of the importance and relevance of psychology, with the goal of maximising the impact of psychology on public policy.

Recent political events and shifting social trends have demonstrated that psychology is more relevant now than ever. Sustaining increasingly-stretched public services is a major challenge, as services continue to deal with increasing demand as a result of persistent health challenges, including mental health, dementia, and obesity; and the consequent service design and delivery issues, including staffing and resourcing.

At the same time, wider psychological concerns need a wise and reflective response: levels of social trust are low, inequality is rising, societies seem divided, and in the current context we face the huge political upheavals of Brexit, compounded by the current domestic political uncertainties both for the UK and, in different ways, the Devolved Nations.

The evidence, interventions and frameworks of understanding that psychology provides can help people and policymakers respond to challenges, make sense of social trends and understand people better. The APPG on Psychology is uniquely placed to come up with responses to these challenges, ultimately seeking to enhance people’s lives and communities as well as our wider society as a whole.

Dr Lisa Cameron MP is Chair of the group with secretariat support from the BPS, led by our Lead Policy Advisor, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard. Together we will ensure that the group organises regular policy panel meetings and follows up engagement on important topical issues ranging from psychology at work, to obesity and mental health.

The establishment of the APPG is part of our increased presence in Westminster, with Westminster Advisors now in place to support the work of the BPS Policy Unit (in the same way it is supported in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).

This approach has enabled a much more swift delivery of both influencing strategies for the BPS’s position papers and calls to action directly to MPs, MSPs, MLAs, Peers and their strategic advisors, and puts us in a far stronger position to present evidence from Psychology to inform policy development and reform. It also enables us to put on information events for legislators and policy makers which are directly relevant to their current areas of concern, as well as the Society’s policy priorities.

A key example of this at Westminster is our long-running campaign in relation to end-to-end reform of the Employment Support assessment, and specifically Work Capability Assessment.

In addition to regular meetings with the DWP/DH Joint Work and Health Unit, DWP officials and Ministers, the BPS is also represented on the Expert Advisory Group for the Green Paper (and soon to be published White Paper), and through the work of our policy consultants has now lined up a series of meetings with key MPs, including the Shadow Work and Pensions Minister.

This work, along with our calls for the suspension of the use of sanctions pending independent review, will be key theme for the bilateral meetings we will hold at both the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences in the autumn.

Other key priority areas include Psychology at Work (focused on the psychological impact of insecure and unstable employment and enabling strength based employment for those with neurodiverse conditions), children and young people’s mental health, Dementia, Pre-tertiary Education and the Research Excellence Framework.

As the examples above illustrate, one of the themes that can be seen in much of our policy work is inclusion; and equality, diversity and inclusion is one of our areas of focus over the next year.

Another helpful approach is to leverage the global knowledge base of our discipline and its breadth and depth to solve the complex problems societies are facing, and to do so jointly (where practicable) with our European and international colleagues, increasing our reach, and mobilising wider forces for policy change.

There will be more of that this week at the European Congress of Psychology and EFPA General Assembly.  

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