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BPS Policy Unit

The shape of things to come

07 January 2020 | by BPS Policy Unit

The shape of UK politics has changed. We’ll undoubtedly continue to be inundated with general election post-mortems from all sides of the political divide for some time yet, but what does the result mean for psychology?

Evidence and analysis

Many of our members, particularly those in political, community and social psychology, have a role to play in deepening the understanding of our changing social context.

Our research and our frameworks will help people and policy-makers to comprehend what psychological factors led to the election result, and what it means for the future.

As politicians look to bring the country together and “let the healing begin”, they would do well to consider psychological evidence on divided societies, trust, community cohesion and identity; to name just a few of our many relevant areas of research.

Political opportunities and challenges

‘Getting Brexit Done’ will dominate the policy landscape in the short-term and we are unlikely to see any significant new policy moves in the first 100 days of the new administration.

Analysis of manifestos reveals mixed opportunities for our 2020 poverty campaign, as while the Conservative manifesto mentioned poverty just three times – compared to Labour’s 40 and the Liberal Democrats’ 24 – there is still potential to engage with some large scale policy programmes, particularly at local level.

The Tories have committed to improve the Troubled Families programme (including hopefully the stigma of its name) and to seek cross-party consensus to solve the social care crisis. Psychologists working in these areas can therefore help us to shape these new policy solutions.

The roll out of Universal Credit will continue and comes with a commitment to make sure that it works for the most vulnerable. Building on our work on benefits and work capability assessment, this is an area we will be watching closely and with concern.

And despite their gains north of the border, the issue of whether the SNP will get their manifesto wish for a UK Poverty and Inequality Commission is also one to watch.

There is also a mixed picture in terms of the future psychological workforce.

The NHS England Long-Term Plan is embedded in the hearts and minds of policy-makers, and we expect the final People Plan early next year. In addition, funding for the NHS is set to rise.

However, Boris Johnson’s narrative around health is focused on more doctors, more nurses and opening 40 new hospitals, while the work of psychologists and other psychological professions in community settings and the vital role of prevention in both physical and mental health is less clear.

Wouldn’t it be a better idea to reduce demand so we don’t need 40 more hospitals?

Champions in government

There’s been lots of changes to people in parliament too, with well over 140 new MPs.

Lisa Cameron MP, a BPS member, chartered Clinical Psychologist and chair of our All Party Parliamentary Group, held her seat for the SNP, which is great news for psychology. But we say goodbye to two of our APPG Officers, Chris Ruane, who was also active in the Mindfulness APPG, and Luciana Berger, a long-standing champion for mental health.

Sincere thanks from the BPS go to both of them for their efforts to promote our discipline.

There will also be some changes to look out for on the health, education and work and pensions select committees.

Stella Creasy, who gave us one of the most heart-warming moments of the night by attending the election count with her two-week old daughter in a sling, will hopefully find her Doctorate in Social Psychology particularly useful when she returns to Parliament after maternity leave.

What's next? 

Next on the to-do list for the BPS policy team is to re-examine our campaign strategy in light of the new government.

At the same time, we will be preparing to respond to some of the government’s big set-piece policy announcements.

These are likely to include consultations on a social care green paper and a clean energy green paper.

We’ll also be working to identify new champions for our priority areas and to re-invigorate our APPG with new officers and a new plan of work for 2020.

It’s going to be a busy year!

Kathryn Scott, Director of Policy

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