The National Vision for the Psychological Professions is “to transform lives and communities by extending and embedding psychological knowledge and practice across the whole of health and care”. It was co-created by psychological professionals and other stakeholders from across all of England as part of the #PsychologicalProfessionsIntoAction movement. The five underpinning planetary commitments gravitate and thrust us towards the Vision, one being to “Unite and Increase Diversity in the Psychological Professions”. Members of the PPN South East Team, and experts by experience, were delighted to join the British Psychological Society (BPS) webinar ‘Talking about Class in Psychology; The Seen and the Unseen’. The speakers’ personal stories were moving and highlighted the diverse and valuable experiences and perspectives people from a ‘working-class background’ can bring to the psychological workforce. It was clear that people from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds can often experience a multifaceted layer of inter-sectional barriers to entering the psychological workforce, but that this can also continue throughout training and post-qualification. We were very moved by the courage of the speakers, sharing their inspiring stories. These narratives have further highlighted the need for ‘Class’ to be on the agenda, whilst reinforcing the need for the psychological professions to “commit to becoming a united force with a strong and diverse voice”.
Why class is on the agenda…
As mentioned in the event, there are rarely spaces to voice or discuss the ‘invisible’ in terms of socio-economic background, so we are pleased that these discussions were taking place and hope they continue. There were a number of important highlights, such as the multi-faceted complexities of defining class, in addition to considering how this may change post-qualification when working in a predominately “middle-class” profession from a “working-class” background. The speakers also highlighted how class does not occur in isolation, but with intersectionality; there are layers of disadvantage and privilege that interact. The talk also exemplified the value of having psychological professions from a “working-class” background in the workforce, such as the transferable knowledge, experience and skills for service development and developing relationships with people accessing services. Although, despite the identification of the barriers and obstacles for people from a “working-class” background, the hurdles persist throughout education and beyond qualification within the profession. This is partially due to the notion that class is ‘unseen’ and rarely actively discussed, thereby impacting on sense of belonging and loneliness. With this in mind, it raises important questions for employers and professional bodies, regarding how to acknowledge, understand and support the needs of the workforce. Especially given the impact of stigma and the implicit biases towards people from a “working-class” background, which is further exacerbated by the lack of “working-class” representation in leadership positions.
How can we continue these conversations?
On an individual level, we can acknowledge our own backgrounds and consider how this may enrich our practice and the wider perspectives held in the psychological workforce. We believe continuing to spark these conversations will aid the transition of making the ‘invisible’ increasingly ‘visible’, for example, reaching out to colleagues or networks or spaces to join these conversations up. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to keep ‘class’ on the agenda, for example by submitting a blog on this topic, or contacting us!
Please share how your work aligns to the National Psychological Professions Vision and commitments through social media @se_ppn #PsychologicalProfessionalsIntoAction and invite your colleagues to join the PPN here.
Brad Powell & Amy Pound
Senior Assistant Psychologists
Psychological Professions Network, South East