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Concern for psychology as cuts bite
The impact of the government's Comprehensive Spending Review is beginning to bite across the discipline: in teaching, research and practice.
In Higher Education, the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University has announced that it is suspending new admissions to its postgraduate programme from September. A statement on the Faculty's website says the decision is part of a review of postgraduate provision in response to the publication of the Browne Review (an independent review of Higher Education funding and student finance) and changes to the funding of Higher Education announced in the coalition's Comprehensive Spending Review. In an e-mailed statement the University told us that a new programme of postgraduate social sciences modules and qualifications has received academic approval by the University but is under review following publication of the Browne report. 'When this review is complete the future of the new postgraduate programme for Social Sciences will be announced. This is likely to be after April 2011,' they said.
Meanwhile, the Training and Development Agency for Schools has cut PGCE psychology places by 50 per cent and slashed the bursary to nil. Karen Duffy, a senior lecturer for the Psychology PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: 'The PGCE community are exceptionally concerned what impact this will have on the quality of psychology teaching in the future. We as a community fought hard to achieve the status we have currently, only to have this taken away a year later.'
In other disappointing news for psychology, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), one of the UK's seven main Research Councils, announced in January that it is planning to prioritise funding in other areas. 'Grant applications in the area of neuroscience, human psychology and animal behaviour currently account for 13 per cent or more of the demand at most rounds...' a web statement says. 'BBSRC has decided that this represents investment of too great a proportion of its grant funds in one area, and it will seek to focus its overall grant commitment to neuroscience in the future, through greater concentration of neuroscience funding to the new strategic priority areas: ... [including] health, nutrition and welfare in farm animals (including animal disease); diet, exercise, ageing and other aspects of healthy human function.'
How is the picture looking for practitioners? Peter Kinderman, Chair of the Society's Division of Clinical Psychology, told The Psychologist: 'The issue of "cuts" in services is an interesting one. On the one hand we've seen the news reports and we've heard the Kings Fund forecast. We've heard managers discussing possible cuts and apparent restructuring. On the other hand, we have increased investment in mental health and specifically psychological perspectives.'
However, some have questioned this increased investment, with David Richards (national adviser to the Department of Health's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme) sacked in February for questioning in The Guardian whether the money was new or came from the existing NHS budget. In a letter to the newspaper following his removal, Richards said his comments and sacking resulted from his frustrated efforts to get an answer to three important questions. He wanted to know to what extent the money would come from cuts elsewhere in the budget; what mechanisms there were to ensure every penny was spent on training and therapy; and what systems had been put in place to ensure existing funds were not slashed as NHS cuts bit. 'The questions are not a matter of mere detail,' Richards writes, 'but of vital import for the many thousands of people trapped in a cycle of untreated misery and fear.'
In terms of how funding changes are likely to affect service users and the wider public, Kinderman told The Psychologist: 'That depends, in part, on your political views. Will it mean radically liberated, effective, efficient new third-sector organisations being commissioned by innovative new commissioners to deliver a cross-agency mental health strategy focusing on a psychosocial approach? Or will it mean that deprived and expired individuals will be thrown to the vagaries of a capitalist healthcare Market where medical GPs sequester limited monies away from mental health and the Big Society degenerates into prejudice and isolation?'
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