Meet the Candidates: Dr Peter McParlin

Dr Peter McParlin is one of five candidates standing for the role of President-Elect this year.

Society grade: Fellow

Current employment: Advisory – Third Sector and Government. I have a teenage son who is disabled – ADHD and neurodiverse

Current roles within the society:

  • Fellow of the Society since 2011: awarded to me in recognition of significant contribution to the advancement or communication of psychological knowledge or practice either by research, teaching, publications or public service, or by organising and developing the work of others
  • I represent media enquiries that relate to: Child and educational development; adoption; Looked after children; Substitute parenting; Autism, Neurodiversity, ADHD and dysregulation; Child Abuse and recovery; Survivors’ issues; Male Survivor issues; Education; Access to University; Care Experienced; The Psychology of animal and owners’ behaviours; Intervention of early suicide in vets, resulting in further safeguards for early training of vets, dentists and medics re suicide and isolation. I respond on behalf of the BPS to government requests, policy and draft legislation around the above topics

Previous roles within the society:

  • Chartered psychologist 43 years; Associate Fellow 20 years; Fellow 13 years; Media representative
  • I responded on behalf of the BPS to government requests, policy and draft legislation around the above topics as above. I also worked media on film/and TV children’s safeguards and safeguarding of specialist residential homes for neurodiverse children

Membership of society member networks: Division of Educational and Child Psychology

 

Dr Peter McParlin
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I believe I demonstrably have the skillset to be the President of the BPS, to act as champion and ambassador for the society, both for the discipline of psychology and for the wider psychological profession and will be committed to this purpose.
Dr Peter McParlin
Dr Peter McParlin - Nominee for BPS President-Elect

Peter's nominee statement

Question 1

The President of the BPS acts as champion and ambassador for the society, the discipline of psychology and for the wider psychological profession. How has your career and experience to date prepared you for this distinguished role?

I would hope to stand as President 'for' the society not just as President 'of' the society. I have worked in several authorities as a Senior and Consultant Child Psychologist, with lead positions and responsibilities pertaining to the dissemination of specialist psychological knowledge and services to multi-agency group partners.

I wrote the first code of conduct for Psychologists working with LAC, as these are vulnerable children, often with additional needs (previously known as special educational needs). I also wrote the first advice for Local Authorities throughout the UK on the education of LAC, aimed at social workers, carers, foster parents and the LA CEOs. 

In relation to this area of Child Psychology now known as Care Experienced Children and Youth, I sat on several government think tanks and voluntary charities' advisory boards for over 35 years. During this time I was also involved in governance and performance as a trustee of a leading child care charity, with management duties in relation to the employment of staff, promotion, disciplinary issues and observing all the regulations set by the Charities Commission for Trustees.

I have sat on adoption panels as a voluntary member for 14 years. My advisory work and Charity Trustee work has always been about championing the needs of others, and these roles also involved a lot of representation work and being an ambassador, particularly for third sector concerns and outreach. It has always been non-remunerative but has also been a huge part of my professional career. I have lots of experience in media work that involves some of the skills needed for this Presidential ambassadorial role. I will be stepping away from direct involvement with my previous commitments if made President-Elect.

I do believe psychologists in so many different areas of psychology and with so much knowledge are often separated by employment demarcation and geographical difference and we need to seek out our commonality of knowledge-practice, so that psychology is ever increasing in its array of knowledge and application. 

I am passionate about this core objective in my life. I believe this aim also resonates internationally, in the sense that we need to come together, even beyond conferences, to share knowledge and the practical application of systems emanating from such knowledge and research, so that international psychological knowledge can be further applied to medicine, technology, the human condition and the advancement of a peaceful society. 

I believe I demonstrably have the skill set to be the President of the BPS, to act as champion and ambassador for the society, both for the discipline of psychology and for the wider psychological profession and will be committed to this purpose.

Question 2

The BPS’s vision is to promote inclusivity and diversity. How do you see this as impacting the society’s work?

I come from a place that was regarded as below working class: 'in care', from an unmarried Irish mother who was locked away in a psychiatric ward for having two babies out of wedlock. I was tossed into a 'looked after' system of 39 state children's homes, that left me homeless, unemployed, uneducated, abused and semi-literate at age 17, before going on to study at Cambridge and obtain four degrees, a Doctorate and Fellowship. You could say I have travelled through many social classes to date. My life in care also included living with people from other minorities who were disproportionately represented in care.

Growing up as a young ex-care gay man, with no home, unemployed and uneducated, made me acutely aware of discrimination and subsequent rejection and hardship. The importance of diversity and inclusion has impacted my life from infancy to now. However, This is in many ways coincidental, in the sense that anyone can be conscious of the need for diversity and inclusion and fight for it.

I have worked for many years with a Leeds Disability charity and I have often successfully represented people with disabilities at appeals: DWP, PIPs, pensions appeals, child and educational appeals, housing design and modifications appeals and grants, personal injuries. I am now standing back from this.

I should say this has never been for any remuneration, and at times when eminent lawyers said the case had little or no prospect of winning, I was successful. I think the psychological skills of accuracy, detail and representation have been useful here. A forensic psychological eye to remediate was the advice of my child psychology Professors John and Liz Newson; this advice has served me well.

We live in a world that is increasingly diverse, not only in culture and languages, also in human identities, lifestyle and connections. I come from a place of previously being hated and stoned for my sexual identity and rejected for my orientation, and now as a same sex parent I am aware of the future challenges of inclusivity. I understand the word tolerance but would like to go beyond that to celebrate diversity, difference and inclusivity. This is a core feature of who I am, and who I would be as President-Elect and President. 

I see the society having to nurture and grow its current inclusivity as well as reaching out to others who may feel the BPS is not for them, by promoting the society's appeal to currently underrepresented groups of people and ethnic minorities alongside new generations of adults. This is where the BPS has to be on point, and not seemingly be an organisation of stuffed shirts and suits, but an organisation which welcomes younger members' new ideas and ways of being and functioning. 

The BPS critically has to appeal to younger generations as attractive, relevant, vibrant, fun and purposeful. The BPS should also work to help impress people of the vast applications and relevance of psychology to their lives and other people's.

Question 3

The BPS aims to create a vibrant member-centred community with a meaningful membership identity. What do you see as the President’s role in this?

To be vibrant to my mind means to be active and alive, not a dusty organisation in some old rarefied gentlemen's club. I have often envisaged the figure of Rev. Edward Casaubon in Austen's Middlemarch being the opposite of who I want to be seen as. He is described as 'A pedantic, selfish, elderly clergyman who is so taken up with his scholarly research that' he fails as a human being. I believe for the society to be vigorous and attractive we need to keep such characters firmly locked in the novels.

We could consider a building that attracts psychologists in, to discuss ideas, debates, advances and wider society projects. I believe that psychology has to demonstrably relate to pressing world issues, where the importance of psychological contributions are clear and inviting to the wider public. A central building that could display the importance of psychology to industry, work places, health, education, leisure and sports, for example, could usefully promote psychology and the communities within it. This could then become an exciting community focal point that engages with people of all ages, not least younger people in their career aspirations and studies. 

There is a sense in which psychology can be viewed as part of the marketplace and needs to be offered to people and communities. Psychology also needs to be for everybody and to engage with all kinds of groups and communities, some of whom remain constant, whilst others develop at different rates with new and different needs. For example, the way we live in family and social groups is fast evolving, and looking back at changes over the last 50 years or so, we realise in how many ways the shape of future living arrangements could be largely unpredictable, especially the ways we connect and communicate with each other as social beings. To keep abreast of this, psychology will need to be lively, dynamic and proactive.

I have also been aware of the power of the psychologist's pen (laptop). I wrote a few articles on animal care and wellbeing, and looked at the psychological aspects involved. In a paper co-authored with a vet, we mentioned suicides amongst vets, the highest number amongst all professional groups, with recommendations to remediate and safeguard. Curiously, the paper's recommendations became a blueprint for guidelines in all UK universities' undergraduate training of vets, medics and dentists. Similarly, I strongly believe that others will continue to apply psychological research to ameliorate social conditions and problematic areas of human functioning. I am often encouraged by seeing psychological knowledge, both theoretical and evidence-based, leading to practical applications, and this is what keeps psychology alive and life-enhancing.

I believe I would be a vibrant, radical President, not afraid to speak honestly, directly and diplomatically, serious and committed, with a deep basis of non- judgemental inclusivity, and able to inspire the membership to collaborate in exciting new ventures, with long-lasting and international impact.

Question 4

The President-Elect is an integral member of our Board of Trustees, which is the overall governing body of the society. Please outline any leadership, organisational and/or governance experience that would help you carry out this role.

In my extensive career I have held a number of management roles that have necessitated crucial leadership, as well as the shared responsibility of working with others at a senior level of policy and implementation. My role in government advisory roles has been to help with the implementation of evidence- based research into practice. In the projects 'By Degrees' and 'From Care to University' which I co-founded with Professor S. Jackson, we persuaded all UK universities to agree to provide the access and support necessary for 'in care' or 'looked after' undergraduates. 

This also meant brokering Government exchanges and working with the main political parties to achieve support and funding. As with my role in management of First Key, this involved senior team activity in decision making and direction of the organisation. We then shaped research around the project to be able to advise future policy and implementation. This gave me further national, government business experience. This has also been replicated in four other charities I co-founded, which again have given me leadership, organisational, financial and governance experience that would help me carry out this role.

My roles in my employment and charity sector volunteer work has also given me the experience of chairing many meetings, involving a wide range of stakeholders and participants, from health partners, government advisers, to funders to reaching out to participants and members benefitting from the above projects.

I was a co-founder of NAPAC, CLA, National Voice and one of two co-founders for From Care to University, as well as founder of From Care to Cambridge and BEVOCAL.CO.UK and took on management roles, which not only gave me the experience of putting the work in, elbow grease and stamina, but also the framing of ideas into reality, and how to support the team during the early years of often testing development. This has taken many many years of commitment and I am now in a position to stand back from the close involvement I previously had as they now all run with full time CEOs and staff. I do still assist in one as a Trustee, which would not conflict with a future President-Elect role.

In my previous management and governance roles I became aware of my part in critical financial functions and permissions. I was also involved in fundraising of multi million pound sums for First Key, a leading care experience charity, at the time, from funders and governments of all colours. This has given me valuable experience in the critical aspects of financial underwriting in organisational strategy, and being proactive in its modernisation and change projects for the future. Financial probity is a major underpinning of an organisation's stability and future, as well as an organisation's succession plan.

Proposer statements

Allan Michael Rennie

How long have you known the candidate?

Three years.

When have you worked with the candidate or come into contact with them?

I first came into contact with Peter in January 2021. I contacted him regarding an online post discussing siblings in care and the work around trying to keep siblings together within the care system.

As somebody who had been through the care system I contacted Peter offering help with his campaign and corresponded with him since, including sharing a project he was working on for the donation of laptops for children within the care system.

Why do you think the candidate would make a great President-Elect and President?

Peter has an almost unique view of psychology, having been through the care system and working his way to becoming a well regarded and insightful psychologist he is today. I have always found him driven and keen to highlight were changes need to be made.

He is driven to make 'things better' for people. His ability to communicate across a range of communities and link his own experiences with theirs would make him a great ambassador for the BPS, while his ability to be able to see situations from a

fresh perspective would allow him to suggest alternative ways forward to the betterment of the society.

I have found Peter to be a detail driven psychologist with an ability to drive theory towards practical outcomes, this ability to find the practical way forward amongst the issues, is what is needed by the BPS.

I think Peter has the vision, drive and commitment to make an excellent President- Elect and President.

Robert Balfour

How long have you known the candidate?

10+ years.

When have you worked with the candidate or come into contact with them?

I have collaborated on a range of projects including a pioneering conference (Invisible Boys) exploring the psychological support needs of male survivors of sexual violence across the lifespan – which ran at the University of Bradford in 2009. Subsequently I have engaged with Peter mostly on issues around ethical involvement of communities of interest (by and for), evidenced good practice and organisational governance issues relating to the delivery of services to care experienced people and survivors of childhood interpersonal violence trauma.

Why do you think the candidate would make a great President-Elect and President?

Peter in my experience would bring a commitment to an inclusive value based organisational delivery culture rooted in listening to the views of members and allied stakeholders whilst maintaining a transparent professional decision-making process to match aspirations to achievable aims. This is evidenced by his extensive professional career history – working directly as both a child psychologist and on many occasions as a professional advisor to Government and others over a long and honoured career.

Psychology I believe stands at the threshold of its 'golden age' as a paradigm shift slowly gathers momentum toward a trauma informed interventions paradigm. 'Systems' and the membership organisations which supply the core professionals that run them will need to evidence complex trauma survivors are visible at all levels of their organisational structures to secure legitimacy within that new paradigm. Peter has the skills and character to evidence that such survivor professionally qualified involvement at governance level within the BPS is possible and more importunately a positive endorsement of its belief in the future