Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Issues related to pay, contracts, Agenda for Change, the NHS, the BPS, unions, etc.

Have you done unpaid work for a single organisation for over 170 hours for professional progression

Yes
33
43%
No
44
57%
 
Total votes: 77

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noodle
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by noodle » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:17 pm

greg wrote:I think what needs to be held in mind is that this is not technically 'working' for free. I think what I was doing in my post was 'gaining experience' for free. Yes, I hope I did some work which was really useful (audits, service evaluations, support work etc) but actually, the time I spent learning about the assessment tools, shadowing other professionals, being present (mainly observing) during team formulation etc was not work and why should I expect to be paid for it. I think titles such as Honorary Assistant Psychologist are misleading. I wasn't doing the work of an AP for free, the work was quite different. I don't know if others' experiences are similar?
My experiences of a placement year and as an honorary AP were similar. I feel that I got so much more in terms of experience than what I could offer in return. Yes I did things like helping with filing and data inputting, but I also did a lot of sitting in on sessions and groups, which was about my learning rather than me contributing in any way or 'working for free'. Interestingly I didn't get to do this nearly as much as a paid AP because I had 'paid work' to do!

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hettie
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by hettie » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:09 pm

That's cool greg, but you got that experience by being able to sacrifice some of the time that you might have otherwise had to spend earning cold harsh cash. If you had had to spend every working hope earning money you wouldn't have had the time to "learn"/work for free

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BlueCat
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by BlueCat » Fri Aug 23, 2013 8:53 pm

hettie wrote:no one should be reporting working for free. It is divisive and stifles social mobility...
This is a very narrow, blinkered view from where I'm sitting! I agree 100% that no-one should have to work for free, but disagree 100% that no-one should! Are you actually suggesting that all volunteering should be stopped?


Firstly, no-one works for nothing, ever, they are always gaining something on a personal level even if they are not receiving financial reward- experience to help them enter into the workplace generally or a specific profession; a warm fuzzy feeling from helping out; social interaction; structure to their week.

I would suggest an alternative perspective - that working for free is pretty common (see for example all the volunteering websites - godoit; medicins sans frontiers; teaching overseas etc), is a good way to develop skills/test out an area/become or stay busy. However, it can be abused by employers.
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hettie
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by hettie » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:35 pm

Hi BlueCat... I do have a bit of a problem with volunteering yes...I think it needs to really tightly controlled.

I'll try and give my rationale as to why. For me, those that need to be cared for or things that need to be done in our society that cannot be monetised/turned into a profit are just as important as services/widgets for which you can make a charge.... mental health, overseas development, domestic violence, looking after ill donkeys etc. How this is funded is extremely important.
Personally I believe the decisions about what gets funded (and therefore which services can pay wages and which have to rely more heavily on volunteers) should not be down to what wealthy individuals would prefer to donate to. The state should fund these service properly. If the state doesn't, then social (non-profits) rely on trust-funds, donations and grants and all of these streams of income are subject to the whims of those involved in them. Thus we get a situation where the Donkey Sanctuary can afford to pay good salaries and domestic violence charities can't (and rely on volunteers or lower paid workers). Because as it turns out people are more likely to donate for cute donkeys than DV victims. It's important that both services have good quality employees who are able to help their clients and well trained and skilled in what they do. An over reliance on volunteers dilutes this.
All the volunteering websites are part of a system that supports this.
When you say
is a good way to develop skills/test out an area/become or stay busy
I agree, but with a caveat- it's only useful for people being financially supported by someone else (or the state). If you were lucky enough to be on the national average wage (£26,500) and had any dependants to give up a day a week would be nearly impossible... never mind if you were earning below the average. So it's a good way to develop skills etc if you can afford it. So the opportunity to develop skills/test out an area becomes one that is only available to the better off thus skewing the job market by upping their prospects over and above those not able to volunteer.
If it was up to me I would severely limit "volunteering". No more than x% of your workforce could be volunteers and no one can volunteer for more than 4 weeks.

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Dr.Dot
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by Dr.Dot » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:12 pm

I voted yes, I must have done well over 170 hours at Samaritans, and as a voluntary teaching assistant. I also did voluntary work at a acute mental health unit.

- Without volunteers there would be very much fewer third sector services. leaving many many people with unmet needs (and possibly dead).
- and btw, I did my all my voluntary work as a single mother, and 2 of the volunteer positions I did while I worked full-time to. Social mobility is there for the taking if you have got what it takes and are willing to put in the extra to top up.
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?

hettie
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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by hettie » Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:54 pm

That's really great Dot and you clearly overcame significant obstacles to achieve what you wanted. I make the presumption that you were earning a good enough wage in that full-time job to be able to pay a baby-sitter to look after your children whilst you volunteered (or maybe you had payment in kind through the good will of relatives looking after your children). Family support and or financial security... enabled you to "take" that social mobility. Had you been a single mother whose family were disinterested in her and who was in a minimum wage job how would you have been able to do it? I am genuinely curious btw, maybe there was some other means at your disposable that is accessible to all?

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by Dr.Dot » Sat Aug 24, 2013 3:21 pm

The voluntary work I did when I was working full-time was in Wales, my family were in Cornwall and London. I was an assistant psychologist / reseasrch assistant, and had a small amount of Family tax credit, and a meger amount of maintaince from my ex, I did not have any financial support from any one else. So no, not much money at all. I had a couple of very supportive friends who helped...one of which had a child and we did childcare swaps. I wasn't able to afford a baby-sitter. I took the social mobility, because I wanted it. So whilst I was earning more than minimum wage for some, I wasn't earning it all of the time.

So when I was...I worked part-time (16hours - at tesco as it goes) and was topped up with benifits, and was able to volunteer as a result. I did have to wait until my daughter was in school full-time though.

This was my path (I left home at 16, I am now in my 40s):
- 2 GCSE's (several years later diagnosed dyslexic)
- Youth training scheme, where I trained as a chef
-Chef(bacame head chef in a pub)
-Pregnant, and in a realtionship - 18 months not working much (cleaning holiday lets, bar work etc)
-Worked part time at tesco
- daughter went to school and relationship broke down
> I went to college to do a classroom assistant NVQ (volunteered 0.3 at a primary school).
> still working at tesco > returned to college to do an access course
- Moved to Wales - had a partner at the time - did my degree
- unemployed
-got job as a support worker - relationship ended
- got a job as an assistant psyh - started volunteering at the acute mental health unit
- later I gave up the mental health unit and worked as a listner and trainer at Samaritians
-Got on to clinical training
-qualified as a clinical psychologist.
-Work as a clinical psychologist

It was a long road, my daughter turns 20 next month.

* just as an aside - benifits are capped at 2K a month, that is what I get in my wage packet now, plenty of room to manouvre really, but you can't be drien by money, coz there really isn't much point in that!
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by wecarealot » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:43 pm

Hi Dr. Dot,

I just wanted to say how inspiring your story is, in terms of sheer perseverance and strength in the face for challenges. Perhaps you don't see it like that, i don't know, and I don't want to be patronising but it is impressive. I have to say, i can't honestly imagine many people taking such a journey without significant support along the way. Do you feel that this is a path of social mobility which is accessible to all in our society?

It's interesting seeing your discussion with Hettie, because I feel a great deal of sympathy with her intuition, regards valuing time worked in a social setting. I have seen many charities close within the recession due to lack of funds and I think that the concept of 'big society', relying on 'the kindness of strangers', wealthy philanthropists who fund charities which they feel are of merit - rather than a more needs based rationale - is both insulting and regressive. That was the model which the Victorians used!

I don't know what the solution is right now though. Personally, I feel that volunteering has allowed me access to opportunities which otherwise would have been out of my reach. I too left formal education early, and took and atypical path to Clinical Psychology - which wouldn't have been possible without me making many sacrifices, such as volunteering and working at the same time as studying. But I wish it was easier for people to work and support themselves, I think that social support roles should be well paid and valued rather than relying on volunteers, with volunteering seen as an extra, not a necessary in these services. Perhaps I want to have my cake and eat it... I think Hettie is talking about equal opportunities and what your story (and mine to a lesser degree) show is that there is a path to social mobility in our current model, it's just that such a path selects for people who are able to relentlessly pursue their goals. Perhaps that is fair? I'm not sure it's equitable...

Oh dear, i think my rambling comment has taken the thread even further off topic!

Sorry. :|

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by hettie » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:08 pm

wecarealot... you put it all much better than I might have!
It's the overall picture that bothers me. Dot's story is inspiring and volunteering undoubtedly benefits individuals, but I worry about the overall implications of it's increasing widespread use..

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by Dr.Dot » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:17 pm

Volunteering is valuable to the community. I think that some perceptions are skewed by what the state and the third sector do provide / should provide, and as a consequence what we 'should' be paid for. Much of what we are trying to repair is a lack of social cohesion in our soceity, not just between the 'classes' , communities and sub/cultures but within. The break down in community has lead to all manner of ills, judgments and projections...all of which are toxic. Befeore there were third sector agencies, and an NHS in fincaial crisis due to the expense of the progression in medical science, there was community. People looked after each other, people gave to others, people did for others, when they were in need. That was all voluntary - but it was born out of a sense of community and a value in the importance of that.

This converstaion seems to be about a competition about who has the opportunities to volunteer - volunteering is something that needs to be done with love and openenss, not what it can give to you. Any opportunity can give what ever you are open to recieveing from it. Social mobility is never born out of having a converstation about it it, it is born out of action. if it is not within your social circumstances to volunteer to get the opportunties right now, then it isn't....being angry at the system isn't going to help much.

I didn't say that I also was on all sorts of comittees, and gave my time to the PTA of my daugthers school and playgroup, made all sorts of things for fundraising, set up fayres, and discos, and helped my daughter organise and run a Bluepeter bring and buy sale when she was 7. I did a lot of work on this forum for at least 3 years. I didn't do those things to get on to clinical training, I did them to be part of the/a community, that is intrinsically rewadring as well as being valuable to lots of people.

I do understand that there are a lot of volantry posts out there...'the increased use" of people giving up their time to get something they 'want' and if they are good ones, you will get a lot from them. Nothing comes for nothing. The supervisors for those roles, should be very supportive and people in those roles would learn a great deal from them. And even if they aren't; learning not what to do ,is as important in learning why, how and what to do.
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by miriam » Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:45 pm

Thanks for coming back and posting Dot. Its good to remember we are not all one homogenous mass of people who have easy lives and lots of money just because it is assumed that is necessary to qualify in CP.

I'm reminded of a good friend who came to the UK at age 11, learnt English as her fourth language. She was brought up in a council estate by a single mum who worked in McDonalds and was in my cohort for clinical training. Most people who have volunteered in services I've been involved in have done so around working every other hour to earn a living, and have done so as an informed choice - because they think they will get a lot from the experience.

I also don't think that even those of us with supportive families necessarily had it all on a plate. I funded my own MSc (£3400) from an AP salary of £9400 by living in a single room of a shared house in a cheap part of the UK and having a very frugal lifestyle. Some people are resourceful, or hard-working, or willing to get into debt in the short-term and volunteering is by no means limited to those who have the financial means to do so without consequences.

In my view it is a choice. Some people fund an MSc, some people work longer in low-level jobs, some people volunteer. It is not necessary to do unpaid work for career progression (yes, I do mean now and in the future, not in some glorious past utopia). However, some people like to work harder for a short period, or to be unpaid for a short period because they think it will speed up their career progression or is otherwise a good investment in the longer term, or will help them to learn whether this is a path they want to follow.
Miriam

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by sally » Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:59 am

On that point - I voted 'no' because I hadn't done that much unpaid work (like most people I did some) but that was because of my family commitments meaning that I couldn't afford the time and money to do so. It didn't affect the overall end point, but I do feel if I had been able to free up more time/had less of a need to bring an income in then it would have speeded up the whole process - perhaps that's why there's such a strong narrative around it being 'essential' as people see others overtaking them on the career ladder.

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by Pink » Fri Aug 30, 2013 12:46 pm

I voted 'yes' because I have began volunteer work at the age of 14 as part of D of E, and had a 3 month unpaid AP post one summer as an undergrad, which was totally awesome and an amazing opportunity. They paid me to come back on a band 4 the following summer, so I was very lucky. I do believe it helped me in my career, and particularly because I had a pretty weak academic record: the commitment and dedication evinced by my CV allowed me to gain an AP post with a 2:ii. (that might sounds narcissistic/humble brag-I don't mean it to, I hope it will be useful for others with a dodgy academic history). I also think trainee CPs should have a volunteering history where financially feasible: I still draw on the skills and experience I learned there, and I think time 'in the trenches' gives you a much clearer picture of what people's lives are like. I'm definitely a better psychologist because of the volunteer work I have done.

However, I still volunteer aged 32. That's 18 years of volunteer work. I'd like to echo what Dot said, I volunteered out of interest/enthusiasm/a desire to help as well as to gain experience, and I still consider it such a valuable part of my life. I'm a second year trainee, but realistically after my first paid clinically-related job (nearly ten years ago) I didn't need to continue for CV reasons, I continued because I love it, value it and feel that it connects me to people and allows me to contribute directly to causes I believe in. I haven't got much money to donate to charity, but I do have time, energy and a strong skill set, and volunteering allows me to contribute directly to the causes I'm passionate about. I think Dot put it beautifully, volunteering is about community, politics and direct action, not personal gain, although what I have gained has been immense. It hasn't all been directly MH related, after a bad break up I started up and ran a couple of lesbian social groups-they got me through some really difficult times and helped me to feel connected to people and to my community. I also volunteered at a Shelter book store for a couple of years. I worked with young care leavers at the time so homelessness was a cause close to my heart and I love reading: it was a perfect fit when direct voluntary work with homeless people would have been too blurry/close to the day job.

The last point I would make is about choice. When Spatch wrote 'everybody travels' I winced wryly, I never did any traveling: I couldn't afford it and spent all my summers volunteering to gain experience rather than going off on trips. I did work throughout my undergrad and MSc in supermarkets/pub jobs, but that just covered living costs and my student loan covered fees. My parents enabled me to live at home for free during the summers (for which I am incredibly grateful) but they couldn't have supported me to go travelling or anything like that. I did increase my hours in my paid employment over the summers, but also did volunteer work to gain experience. I'm glad I did and it has been really useful, but I wish I'd traveled too, and somehow the opportunities seem to have passed now. I'm saving for a deposit & worrying about getting a job post-qualifying. So I do think there's a balance to be struck. There are so many different factors that will affect what people can contribute at any given point in their lives, but I do believe we should volunteer where we can. I'm really glad I have.

Pink
Kintsukuroi: 'to repair with gold'. the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by Pickle » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:08 pm

I ticked 'no' as my voluntary work (Hon AP) was only one day per week for 4 months. It certainly wasn't because I could afford to do it - I still had to work 3x12hrs HCA shifts a week if not more to pay the bills/be able to afford to finish my final year of uni at the time. I do remember sacrificing my sleep and many weekends just to fit everything in (and probably my overall degree grade to some extent).

I have since undertaken other voluntary work which definitely would have topped the duration that you stated (3 years) - whilst some aspects of the role were relevant to training on reflection (i.e. working with prisoners and prison staff - which has no doubt helped my engagement/therapeutic alliance skills as a trainee as well as developing my understanding of the MH needs of this population) many were not (i.e. checking the cleanliness of the prison kitchens/observing adjudications/the segregation unit etc.) and I didn't embark on it because I thought it would get me a foot in the door hence I didn't tick 'yes'. I was just genuinely fascinated about the particular role.

Voluntary work is something that myself and my peers have been encouraged to do since school (it was called community service back then and was compulsory in year 11 and 12) so many of us have continued with it as and when time/life has allowed. Some have used aspects of it for our own gain (e.g. like my hon AP post; another friend who wanted to get into med school as a graduate volunteered for Red Cross etc) but generally speaking whatever we've done has been because we've wanted to help out our local communities or other causes that we are passionate about in some way. I'm not currently doing any voluntary work due to the demands of training but it is something that I am really excited about getting back into once I've qualified.

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Re: Qualified/Trainee poll: Have you worked for free?

Post by DuquesaV » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:15 pm

Pickle wrote:I ticked 'no' as my voluntary work (Hon AP) was only one day per week for 4 months. It certainly wasn't because I could afford to do it - I still had to work 3x12hrs HCA shifts a week if not more to pay the bills/be able to afford to finish my final year of uni at the time. I do remember sacrificing my sleep and many weekends just to fit everything in (and probably my overall degree grade to some extent).

I have since undertaken other voluntary work which definitely would have topped the duration that you stated (3 years) - whilst some aspects of the role were relevant to training on reflection (i.e. working with prisoners and prison staff - which has no doubt helped my engagement/therapeutic alliance skills as a trainee as well as developing my understanding of the MH needs of this population) many were not (i.e. checking the cleanliness of the prison kitchens/observing adjudications/the segregation unit etc.) and I didn't embark on it because I thought it would get me a foot in the door hence I didn't tick 'yes'. I was just genuinely fascinated about the particular role.

Voluntary work is something that myself and my peers have been encouraged to do since school (it was called community service back then and was compulsory in year 11 and 12) so many of us have continued with it as and when time/life has allowed. Some have used aspects of it for our own gain (e.g. like my hon AP post; another friend who wanted to get into med school as a graduate volunteered for Red Cross etc) but generally speaking whatever we've done has been because we've wanted to help out our local communities or other causes that we are passionate about in some way. I'm not currently doing any voluntary work due to the demands of training but it is something that I am really excited about getting back into once I've qualified.
The poll didn't actually ask you to vote based on whether you thought it helped you get a foot in the door as I understand it. It just asks whether you have done 170 hours or more for one organisation. If I have understood correctly those who have done 170+ should tick yes. Have I misunderstood?

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