Prof Sumaya Laher

President: Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA)

Dear PsySSA Members

I write my first President’s corner in the wake of difficult circumstances. The Society notes with extreme concern the situation across campuses in our country. The increasing securitization in spaces of dialogue is even more worrying. PsySSA released its statement on the #FeesMustFall campaign within a week of the protests calling for an end to violence and a negotiated solution. Post this many organisations have called for the same. PsySSA engaged with the ASSAF expressing support for their call for a Summit to engage meaningfully with solutions to the call for free quality, decolonized education. The PsySSA Student division is to be commended for organizing trauma counseling for students during the protests. To date, the silence from the country’s leadership has been deafening.

This time affords an opportunity for Psychology departments across campuses to determine whether it is possible to transcend the academic role and given the crisis adopt a more active part in pathing a solution. Some academics have, in their individual capacities, aided in various ways in negotiations with all parties. Others have offered their counseling services. PsySSA would like to encourage Psychology departments and alumni to consider ways in which they may assist in resolving the current impasse in higher education.

Indeed many of the conversations at this years Congress spoke to themes of free quality, decolonized education. As is evident from the Congress Highlights, these conversations are far from over and it is the intention of PsySSA to pursue these in various fora over the course of this 2016-2017 term. Amongst others is the inaugural Pan African Psychology Union (PAPU) Congress at the Durban ICC from the 18 – 21 September 2017

The theme, ‘Psychology for Society,’ provides an opportunity to continue the discussions from Congress this year but on a much larger and grander scale with a regional and international platform. Abstract submission and early bird registration is now open at (insert web address). The 2017 PsySSA Congress will be incorporated into the PAPU Congress for 2017.

The last few months have also been witness to many challenges for psychology professionals in South Africa. Clinical psychologists were informed by a certain medical aid that they could not claim directly for in hospital claims. PsySSA met with the medical aid concerned and discussed the shortsightedness of this action. To date, the communication was never actioned. Educational, Counseling and/or Industrial psychologists were advised by certain medical aids that they would not be reimbursed and these communications were referenced to the Scope of Practice.  PsySSA has been in contact with all the medical aids that members indicated were doing this. PsySSA has also been in contact with the Council of Medical Schemes and the Professional Board for Psychology (PBP) requesting intervention and assistance with this. The medical aids consistently insisted that they were awaiting the outcome of the courtcase on Scope of Practice that was being heard in the Western Cape High Court. At the time of writing this piece, the official statement from the court case and the actual judgement had not yet been released** (click here to view the settlement).  PsySSA will decide on a way forward following the release of the statement. The NHI also poses challenges for Psychology. Overall the NHI makes little provision for mental health care. PsySSA responded in detail to this when the draft document was released and continues to follow up on developments with the NHI.

If ever there was a time that colleagues in the Profession needed to unite, the time would be now. As can be seen with the brief report above, there are a number of concerns for the profession and discipline of Psychology in South Africa. If Psychology does not speak with one voice, we run the risk of not being heard. Let us work together for the betterment of the Profession so as to best serve the vast mental health needs of South Africans.

PsySSA has been busy post Congress. Other than keeping abreast with the Scope of Practice issues,, PsySSA has focused on increasing membership benefits. At Congress, PsySSA announced the opportunity negotiated with Datamax Panacea Practice Management System. PsySSA continues to offer affordable and comprehensive indemnity insurance. Members can view the PsySSA indemnity insurance package at http://www.psyssa.com/membership/professional-indemnity/

As reported at the AGM, PsySSA acquired new premises in Parktown, Johannesburg. Fatima and the office staff have been kept busy with the move for the month of October. Please feel free to visit the new PsySSA offices just off the M1 highway on 11/13 St Andrews Road. The new premises include a training facility thus affording opportunities for CPD activities and other events. The PsySSA Pre-congress workshops received excellent feedback with delegates expressing the need for some of these to be repeated. The training facility ensures that these and other workshops can be held on a regular basis outside of Congress. PsySSA members can contact the office on to enquire about booking the venue for training and/or meetings.

Despite the move, PsySSA activities have continued. The Executive has been engaging with other stakeholders on the higher education crisis. The Society remains concerned over the Life Esidimeni closure and subsequent deaths of 36 patients. PsySSA members participated in discussions at the World Psychiatry Congress in Cape Town as part of the South African Mental Health Alliance on the 18 November. These and other issues linked to mental healthcare nationally, regionally and internationally were discussed.

Additionally the Society continued its role in facilitating a meeting between the Professional Board for Psychology (HPCSA) and RelPAG representatives in October. Subsequent to this it has become evident that the two parties have reached a settlement which may be viewed here.

PsySSA also continues to engage on issues of test review and classification as well as scope of practice issues for all psychology professionals. PsySSA received communication from the Association of Test Publishers (ATP) re: the courtcase between the Minister of Labour with regards to the Clause 8.d in the Employment Equity Act. We hope to be able to end the year on a positive note for members and will continue to keep members updated on developments in this regard.

We look forward to receiving input from members but more than this we look forward to members actively participating in the Society. PsySSA exists only because of its members. Every person on the PsySSA structures acts in a voluntary capacity. Hence the success of the Society depends on member involvement and interaction. The growth and development of the discipline that happens through organized bodies like PsySSA can only happen through active engagement from members. Come and get involved, let us make a difference together. We are PsySSA!

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