Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

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Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by rebeccaroisin » Wed Jun 03, 2020 2:32 pm

I've been thinking about how to increase the diversity in Clinical Psychology and I'm wondering whether securing Assistant Psychologist roles could be a big part of the problem. Here's my thinking. I'm focusing on black and minority-ethnicity candidate applications, as there's data to characterise the problem. However, the same argument applies to e.g. socio-economic background.

1. Data from 2017 suggests that in the Clinical Doctorate application process, BME candidates do less-well at the pre-selection stage. A smaller proportion of BME applicants are invited for interview compared with white applicants, with a much smaller difference between interview and offer.

2. Looking at the Alternative Handbook from 2018, a very high proportion of successful applicants had held an AP role, either in the NHS or private sector. You can't see exact figures, but on almost all courses over 50% of respondents had held an NHS AP role, with some courses above 80%. That suggests that having an AP role is a strong predictor of good performance in the doctorate application.

Intuitively, this makes sense as holding an AP role gives access to supervision by a qualified CP. The applicant's clinical reference can also be written by a CP, which is an advantage as they can write reference that is more tailored to the specific competencies required for the doctorate.

(Caveat -- I don't know what proportion of all doctorate applicants had held an AP post. It could be that the numbers above just reflect the baseline percentage of applicants).

3. BME candidates may be systematically disadvantaged in applying for AP roles:
- Applications for AP roles systematically close early. I have seen application windows as short as a few hours for some roles. This is likely to disadvantage BME candidates, who are likely to be from lower socio-economic backgrounds so may be working during the window where the application is live, have caring responsibilities, have limited internet access etc and therefore never get to apply for the job at all.
- Honorary unpaid AP roles are used as a stepping stone to paid AP roles. These are not really an option for candidates who don't have independent financing that allows them to take unpaid roles.
- As the application process is competitive, there is a risk that screening / interviewing uses ''cultural fit'' to choose between good candidates, meaning that candidates hired resemble the existing team.

This point (3) is more speculative. Is there any data on race / class of AP post-holders? Or on the impact of holding an AP role on success at each stage of the doctorate applications (including for BME vs white candidates)?

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Re: Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by boayg » Wed Jun 03, 2020 11:52 pm

Very little is known about AP workforce in terms of diversity, but I thought it would be interesting to share some insight about BAME vs White candidates in senior to director positions within healthcare services.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust held a diversity conference in December 2019. One part of the conference showed the figures of successful candidates in terms of ethnicity. For less senior positions (below Band 8 for e.g), the proportion of candidates who were successful from shortlisting to interview stages were no different amongst people from BAME and White backgrounds. Astoundingly, although no bias was found at the shortlisting stages of Bands 8b and above between BAME and White candidates, those who come from White backgrounds were twice as more likely to be appointed as compared to those from BAME backgrounds after the interview. Bear in mind, applications are anonymised at shortlisting stages so demographics and personal ID are omitted.

The above represents all fields within the NHS, but it does show wider implications of indirect and structural racism that is ongoing today.

If you ask people about their experiences of seeing diversity in their cohort - whether it be during AP/doctorate interviews, within their own psychology departments, or on training, I'm highly confident they'll say that it's not diverse at all, and that it's predominantly white middle class females. I've seen it myself.

It is definitely a complex issue to address, and I do wonder what the panellists' views are in relation to this challenging system

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Re: Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by Spatch » Thu Jun 04, 2020 2:17 pm

I would also be interested in this if there was any data about this topic of AP hiring and diversity. There is more of this at the qualified level, and also within the broader NHS workforce, but it is really hard to get hold of this with earlier career routes.
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Re: Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by PinkFreud19 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:32 pm

Just to add to this, I'd be interested in data comparing honorary AP posts to paid. We all know that unpaid posts hugely benefit those from wealthier socioeconomic backgrounds and that honorary posts are often the gateway to accessing paid AP posts. Combined, I wonder how much variance this explains in pre-selection stages being the point of significance.

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Re: Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by workingmama » Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:03 am

I have refused to offer places for unpaid APs (which are common in my place of work) on exactly these grounds. Whilst we are very well meaning in making work opportunities this way of doing it exacerbates existing structural inequalities re. race and SES.
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Re: Improving Diversity in Clinical Psychology - Hiring Assistant Psychologists

Post by miriam » Sat Jun 13, 2020 3:10 pm

You can't offer unpaid posts in the private sector, and I'm one of the people who has campaigned against their use in the NHS and other organisations for full-time or long-term posts or where it could be considered to replace a paid worker (which is minimum wage evasion) or favour certain demographics. However, I am not sure that these are very prevalent if you exclude placements as part of university qualifications. Do we have any figures?

There are enormous issues about senior managers being seen as middle-aged white men, and it being much harder to reach higher bands and senior management roles for BME and female applicants, across the whole of society (and definitely including all the health professions) that need to be addressed. But I guess that is not what this thread is about.

Purely anecdotally, I feel like there are a reasonable proportion of BME applicants to the AP posts I've advertised, although I think being outside of a major urban area there is probably less diversity than in the big cities. Whilst I have ended up with nearly 50% male APs (which suggests some bias towards men, or characteristics more often shown by male candidates, as they make up only about 25% of applicants) I'd say I've only recruited about 10% black or asian APs. I shortlist purely by the competencies required in the job and blind to name/age. That means I score academic ability (which could come from degree marks or publications, but I don't give much weight to bought/taught MScs) and relevance of experience, but I heavily weight tailoring the application to the job specification and showing enthusiasm for our client group. I suspect that the academic/experience scoring slightly reduces the proportion of BME candidates I interview compared to the applicant pool. And the tasks I use at interview, whilst very helpful in being directly relevant to the tasks involved in the job role I'm recruiting to, may also have that effect.

The difficulty is that whenever I've included, or appointed, someone on the basis of affirmative action, it hasn't worked out well for either party. And I've heard from several people who really champion equality that there is additional complexity about performance management, dismissal, or failing the placement or academic work of someone with protected characteristics, as some people can perceive any negative feedback through the lens of prejudice - making it a very hard topic to speak about or adjudicate fairly, because there obviously are significant issues with prejudice across society.

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