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BPS Policy Unit

Pushing policy forwards

12 March 2018 | by BPS Policy Unit

The Society’s Policy Unit is enjoying increasing success in its efforts to influence public policy and is now concentrating its efforts on creating a sustained impact in parliament, pushing forwards numerous key policies via one-to-one meetings, pre-organised events, and regular policy briefings.

The Society’s Workforce Planning Standing Advisory Committee (WPASC) has a number of key workstreams.

It is currently involved in compiling a picture of the current psychological workforce (using data from HCPC, IAPT, NHS Digital and the BPS member survey) and a horizon scanning project of the factors which will be likely to affect the psychological workforce over the next 20 or 30 years, as well as the action needed by the current workforce, trainees and education providers to ensure the future workforce will be fit for purpose.

It is also engaged in drawing up a competency framework project alongside Health Education England that will build an accurate picture of the competencies at each level of the psychological workforce in order to inform service providers of their options in order to fulfil a particular function.

A member of WPASC is working with NHS digital to ensure that their data collection for the psychological workforce is correct so that accurate data can be produced on current numbers and future need.

More broadly, the Policy Unit is engaged in a wide range of activities across the parliaments and assemblies in the UK to increase the opportunities for the input of psychological expertise in policy development.

Underpinning this work is a series of key policy asks across practice, research, education and training and public policy. By repeating and re-emphasising these across all areas of psychology we aim to gain traction and build our reputation with policymakers.

These include:

  • All new government statements and policy papers should include a description of the issue from a psychological perspective that is informed by psychological evidence. This means that a psychological perspective should be embedded at the heart of policy and a causal analysis including individual and social psychological components should be an integral part of every policy statement.

  • All policy interventions should be designed to reflect the social determinants of human behaviour and response to social and environmental causes as well as purely individual, dispositional ones. This means that a holistic approach will be taken rather than one that separates biological, psychological and social perspectives, enabling a recognition that human behaviour is often a reaction to a situation, rather than it being “something wrong with the individual person”.

  • All new policy interventions that aim to change human behaviour are chosen based upon robust evidence. This means that policymakers should ensure a thorough testing of planned policy interventions prior to roll out, and to recognise that it is unlikely that a “one size fits all” approach will be successful and a suite of tried and tested interventions will most likely be the most effective and have the most beneficial long term outcomes.

  • Governments should commit to prevention and this should be reflected in legislation, policy priorities, budget allocations and departmental targets. This means that in addition to utilising the current evidence base for practical population level interventions, the government should also be working across departments to identify new policy areas in which prevention can make the biggest difference, and invest in that accordingly to establish the evidence base on “what works”.

  • All government policy statements should contain a measurable objective to enhance the experience of individuals, communities and wider societies. This means that policies should include objectives for human flourishing, not just interventions for those experiencing difficulties, enabling people to be the best that they can be to enhance their lives and their performance.

  • The need to ensure that everyone has knowledge of and access to a range of psychological services so they can choose the method, modality and time for a psychological intervention or opt for no intervention. This emphasises the absence of a “one size fits all approach” in psychology and is an acknowledgement that no single intervention will be appropriate in all cases. The evidence base needs to be widened to ensure that individuals are offered the widest possible choice of effective interventions.

  • All psychological training routes are funded to the same required level in order to boost the workforce and meet the demands for service provision. This means commissioners of training need to consider the need for diversity of training across practitioner domains within psychology to support the growth and flexibility needed in the psychological workforce.

  • The Government should identify a single point of contact responsible for developing a co-ordinated competency-based approach to workforce planning across all statutory settings. This is the end point for the delivery of the competency-based training model for practitioner psychologists being developed by the BPS. It puts service users at the heart of workforce planning and would bring about a workforce that is flexible, sustainable, and equitable; widens opportunity for participation and meets the needs of service users.

  • The psychological workforce should increase in both size and breadth to include a much wider workforce with diverse skills and roles. This is the only way that growing demand across settings can be met. It means that the BPS needs to establish baseline data on the workforce and to inform the scoping of new qualifications and training routes).

These asks are driving our current work with, for example, the Department for Work and Pensions on welfare reform, the Department of Health and Social Care on children and young people’s mental health, and with the Department for Education on psychology education, bullying and social media.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology programme of meetings for 2018 is also aimed at increasing the presence of psychology at the heart of Westminster. Lisa Cameron MP is particularly keen on working with the Society to increase our traction and level of influence.

Through both the APPG and our broader outreach, we have dramatically extended our network of key Parliamentarians and are regularly providing briefings, parliamentary questions and suggested debate or Early Day Motion topics.

As I have discussed previously, building our presence, understanding and reputation takes time and sustained effort. The Policy Team is extremely grateful to all those members who contribute their psychological expertise to the Society’s policy outputs, meetings and events, and respond to consultations and calls for evidence. Working together there is much we can achieve.


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