NHS trust advertises clinical post as unpaid internship

Working for nothing, it seems, is the new having a job. There’s currently an advert on the NHS Jobs website for an “honorary assistant psychologist”, for which the pay scheme is euphemistically described as “other”. [Hat tip: @DrPhilHammond]

We are seeking an enthusiastic and committed individual to join a community service within the Addictions & Offender Care Directorate. You will be based in a Substance Misuse team, a multi-disciplinary team, under the supervision of a Clinical Psychologist. You will need to be able to commit to working in an honorary capacity for at least two days per week for at least 6 months. We would look favourably on individuals who can make a greater commitment.

You must be willing to work with individuals with substance misuse problems, many of whom also have complex mental health needs. You must possess the relevant skills and attributes to facilitate service users to engage in the service. You must have a strong commitment to teamwork and be able to work sensitively within a culturally diverse environment.

The successful applicant will possess a degree in psychology, and be eligible for Graduate Basis for Registration with the British Psychological Society.

We offer regular, high quality, clinical supervision and strong professional support. The psychology department has close links with UCL, UEL and Royal Holloway DClinPsych courses.

Please Note: These are UNPAID positions.

Oh Lord, is this how it begins? The world of unpaid internships, sorry, “honorary” posts migrating over from business and the media into actual clinical roles in the NHS?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s an assistant psychologist post that seems to have attracted this method. There’s lots of keen, bright psychology graduates out there desperately scrabbling about for a few jobs as assistant psychologists, which they hope in turn will make them more appointable to the fiercely competitive doctorate programmes in clinical psychology. Plenty of the nursing assistants and support workers I’ve worked with in mental health are psychology grads trying to get relevant experience. Quite a few of them eventually give up, and go back to university to train as mental health nurses.

In other words, a field where you’ve got a good chance of finding someone of sufficient quality who’ll do it for free.

No doubt it’ll save Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust a bit of cash, but it’s yet another kick in the teeth for social mobility. There’s going to be a lot of psychology graduates who won’t be able to apply for this – not because they aren’t good enough, but because they can’t afford to take two days off a week from stacking shelves at Poundland.  If this turns out to be the shape of things to come, this could be yet another deepening of class divisions where a whole slew of top jobs are simply closed off to everyone except the offspring of the wealthy. Welcome to the new aristocracy.

The Spirit Level: The Movie – An interview with director Katherine Round

In 2009 the groundbreaking and controversial The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Do Better was published. It argued that almost every aspect of society was improved by greater equality, and made worse by greater inequality. I interviewed producer and director Katherine Round, who plans to make a movie based on the book.

Z: What made you want to turn The Spirit Level into a film?

Katherine: When I read the book I was struck by the power of the evidence within it that inequality underlines many of the social problems we are most concerned about, and felt that if this message could be taken out to a wider audience it would really have the potential to make a significant contribution to public policy and from there hopefully we’ll start seeing improvements in areas as diverse as child poverty to mental health. I have long believed that film has a very powerful role to play both in raising awareness of issues and offering solutions – presenting factual information in a way that is accessible to new audiences. There are lots of people out there who would never pick up a book about the need for greater equality, and it is these people that a film can engage. The film The End of the Line, which examined the impact of over-fishing on the world’s oceans, was subject to an impact study on its effectiveness. The film was found to have been effective not just at spreading the message, but also changing policy (both government and retail). I hope The Spirit Level film can be as successful.

Z: What are the effects of inequality on society and the economy?

Katherine: The analysis conducted by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett shows that a range of social ills are more common in societies that have a bigger gap between rich and poor. For example; social mobility is less likely, there is more violent crime, more mental health problems, and poorer educational performance. And, contrary to what many believe, these problems impact on people even if they’re at the higher end of the income scale. We’ve been fed the view for years that inequality is necessary for economic success, but the reality is that it is a destabilising factor. Vastly unequal societies prohibit large sections of the population from participating in the economy without taking on debt. What we have seen is the creation of debt-based economies which are unsustainable, with wealth flowing upwards and the rest maintaining their position through borrowing. This inevitably collapses, causing recession.

Z: Some people have disputed the findings of The Spirit Level, and argue that inequality is not necessarily bad. What is your response to that?

Katherine: The critiques to the book have mainly come from a small number of politically-motivated sources, who by cherry-picking data and the inconsistent removal of different countries, have found they can show something different. This is the reason that the authors of the book used statistically sound epidemiological methods and data sources – to ensure that there was no bias and that their analysis was rigorous. They even added an additional chapter to the book answering their critics point-by-point.

Z: What do you hope the film will achieve?

Katherine: I hope the film will enable more people to be aware of how damaging the current levels of inequality are to our societies. By giving people ways they can influence change – as consumers, citizens and campaigners – I hope that we will be able to make an intervention in the debate, build the social movement for a fairer society, and ultimately make changes that improve people’s lives.

Katherine is attempting to crowfund the making of this movie. To make a donation, go here. (Note: donations end on Sunday night)

Oxfam warns of “Perfect Storm” of UK poverty

Today, Oxfam released a briefing paper: The Perfect Storm: Economic stagnation, the rising cost of living, public spending cuts, and the impact on UK poverty.

The paper warns of an assault from all sides on Britain’s poor, caused by a toxic combination of rising unemployment, declining incomes, increased cost of living, public service cuts, benefit cuts, housing shortages and weak labour rights.

The government‟s rapid deficit reduction measures are hitting the livelihoods of almost everyone in the UK, but the particular approach taken is hurting people living in poverty the most. The focus on cutting public spending rather than raising taxes is deeply regressive, and the blend of tax increases chosen is itself regressive. In addition, both public spending cuts and the tax and benefit changes introduced by this government will have a significantly more negative impact on women than on men.

At the same time, we are seeing a synergy of economic and social needs. Protecting the incomes of the poorest people is crucial for both social and economic reasons. It is people on low incomes who are being hurt the most by the Perfect Storm, and increasing the incomes of the poorest will have the strongest multiplier effect on aggregate demand in the economy. By prioritising and targeting social and economic investment, the government can ensure that it protects the services upon which those in poverty most rely, while helping to boost demand and provide investment in the long-term productive capacity of the economy.

Oxfam are calling for decisive action to safeguard the increasing number of British people living in poverty, which shames our status as one of the richest nations in the world.

Protect the incomes of the low paid, reducing the withdrawal rate of Universal Credit from 65 per cent to 55 per cent to ensure that work pays, and increasing the National Minimum Wage at least in line with inflation or average earnings, whichever is the higher;
Protect people in poverty from the increasing cost of living, by giving new powers to Ofgem to cap fuel prices; introducing a maximum level of interest; and protecting the Social Fund and expanding its resources, to protect people from exploitation and to guard against problem debt;
Protect public services, by using progressive taxation to slow the speed and depth of cuts; ring-fencing the Sure Start grant to local authorities in England; and exploring investing in a national system of universal child care, to make work pay for women and to build the social infrastructure of the country;
Protect the social safety-net, by giving local authorities in England and Wales sufficient resources to maintain existing levels of Council Tax Benefit; monitoring the effect of the Housing Benefit and overall benefit caps; reversing the switch from RPI to CPI inflation for benefit uprating; maintaining real Child Benefit levels; and reversing cuts to child-care support;
Provide secure, affordable, decent housing for all, by investing in affordable homes to boost the economy and to help solve the housing crisis; and increasing maximum penalties for rogue landlords;
Protect rights at work: the weak labour market is adding to the power that employers have over workers, and so it is essential to maintain and enforce the vital protections that do exist for vulnerable workers;
Move towards a fairer tax system by clamping down on tax avoidance; introducing a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, to help protect public services and benefits and ensure that everyone pays their fair share; and exploring options for a land value tax; and
Rethink how we measure value: the social damage caused by inequality, high unemployment, and environmental degradation all tell us that it is not growth that matters, but the type and distribution of growth; measuring true social value through a measure of well-being such as Oxfam Scotland‟s Humankind Index will help us to measure whether what we are doing to fix the economy is really, sustainably benefiting society.

While such a paper wouldn’t be so surprising if it came from the likes of, say, UKUncut, this is from a major charity more usually associated with providing aid to the developing world. That they now feel it necessary to speak out about the way we treat our own poor may speak volumes about the increasing levels of inequality and hardship on our doorsteps.

You can read the full briefing paper here.

On Living in a Time of Regression

This is not going to be a particularly cheerful post. For those looking for happiness and fun, it might be worth popping here instead and look at cute pictures of kittens.

For as long as everyone can remember, we’ve faced ongoing improvements in our quality of life. Better public services, better infrastructure, more leisure, more shiny things to buy and play with. with that has come rising expectations.

And of course, it’s all now gone to pot. Not because of resource scarcity, or climate change – though both of those may well be yet to come – but because our financial whizkids got the maths wrong.

I’m just wondering, are we psychologically prepared for this? How will we cope with accepting that our expectations are going to be very different in this period of social decline and regression?
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Reasons to be Livid #5738

Back last year, the following conversation must have taken place somewhere in Conservative Party Central Office.

“Okay, guys. We need a catchy slogan to get the nation through the austerities ahead.”

“Sure. How about, ‘Batten down the hatches, here comes Armageddon’?”

“Haven’t you got anything a little more upbeat?”

“Well, I was thinking about ‘We’re all in this together’.”

“That’s excellent. Positive, catchy…and you know what? I reckon that’ll never come back to haunt us in any way shape or form whatsoever.”

On today’s news, it certainly looks like somebody forgot to send the memo to our bosses.

Pay for the directors of the UK’s top businesses rose 50% over the past year, a pay research company has said.

Incomes Data Services (IDS) said this took the average pay for a director of a FTSE 100 company to just short of £2.7m.

The rise, covering salary, benefits and bonuses, was higher than that recorded for the main person running the company, the chief executive.

Frankly, it doesn’t so much give a sense of “all in this together” as “haul up the drawbridge while all goes to Hell for the commoners.” Not even the Daily Mail feels inclined to defend this one.

I suspect many of the readers of this blog will have already seen this video, but today’s news reminded me of another recent example of out-of-touch arrogance from our financial elites.

For those of you who haven’t seen it before, the “let them eat cake” moment (and glorious slapdown from Polly Toynbee) is at 3.40.

On the YouTube page, the top comment is “Tax Payers Alliance, I think it might help if your spokespeople didn’t look like cartoons of overfed capitalist scumbags.” Frankly, it’s hard to disagree. The TPA couldn’t have been fronted by more of a cliche if he was wearing a crown and quaffing from a ruby-encrusted goblet. Perhaps while also waving a chicken drumstick as jesters capered around his feet.

Also in the video, Toynbee described the current situation as “a dysfunction like the last days of the Roman Empire”. When I first watched this a couple of weeks ago, that comment seemed like hyperbole. Given today’s news, I’m no longer so sure.