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Chief Executive

Building a more democratic BPS

30 May 2019 | by Chief Executive

When I took over as chief executive of the society just over twelve months ago, one of the first promises which I made was to make us a more democratic organisation which is led by its members and is putting itself out there to represent your views.

One of the ways in which we’ve started to do this is through our Senate process. Run for the first time in October 2018, it allowed our member networks to come together and ultimately vote for the mental health of children and young people to be our top policy priority.

Since being given that mandate we’ve worked hard to have our voice heard where it matters. We’ve formed an expert reference group of the most qualified members in this area, which has led to us developing an influential briefing for Ofsted on their inspection process, welcomed parliamentarians to an event to discuss mental health in schools and held meetings with a number of senior policy makers to push our agenda forward.

We’re now almost ready to launch the Senate for its second year and have made some big changes to make it even more democratic and more representative.

While networks are still invited to submit their proposals and will ultimately select from a shortlist, that shortlist will be decided by a vote of the entire membership.

This voting process will take place in July and will offer the opportunity for discussion and debate around where we as a society and as a discipline can have the biggest impact. Details on how to vote will be circulated to members once we have received the proposals, and I urge you to get involved and make sure that you have your say.

You also have the opportunity to vote on the president of the society for 2020/21. We have three fantastic candidates in Dr Hazel McLaughlin, Dr Joanna North and Professor Christina Richards, and I look forward to working with whoever your choose to be your most senior elected representative.

The winning candidate will be announced at our AGM on Friday 19th July, a day which offers another opportunity for members to hold us to account and find out more about what we’ve been doing in the last twelve months. All members are welcome to join us at the Belmont Hotel in Leicester, and it would be great to be able to discuss our future with some of you.

While it’s important for us to think about big, long term policy projects and the overall direction of the society, we also have to react to the day-to-day news agenda.

It is a disgrace that it has taken the death of a guest on the Jeremy Kyle Show for the issue of appropriate after care and psychological support for people taking part in reality television shows to really hit the news agenda.

It’s only right that the government select committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has opened an inquiry into the whole genre, and we will be engaging with this process under the leadership of John Oates, the chair of our Media Ethics Group and a leading advocate for good practice in the field.

John has also been working to produce a document to guide television producers through the challenge of providing psychologically informed care and support to people taking part in their programmes. We will be launching this soon, and I hope that it forms part of a step change in the industry.

We also saw a BBC Panorama recently which exposed the harrowing abuse suffered by vulnerable people at the Whorlton Hall facility in County Durham.

The reaction to the sickening scenes which were uncovered has been one of universal disgust and appetite for change, but it is sadly a fact that this is not an isolated scandal. The words ‘never again’ must prove to actually mean something this time.

We will be doing all that we can as your professional body to make sure that psychology and psychologists are able to contribute to solving these important issues, and I’ll keep you updated on our progress over the coming weeks and months.

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