Transverse Registration Letter – Jan 2023

The Educational Psychology Association of South Africa (EPASSA) has been made aware that several of our members have expressed concern regarding the Board’s letter of December 15, 2022, regarding the Application for Transverse Registration. We understand that the letter may have been received by some psychologists, but not by all. EPASSA believes that the transverse registration initiative outlined in the letter refers to outdated scope of practice issues and to the Board’s Minimum Standards document in a manner that is in some respects illogical and unconstitutional.

The background of this issue is that the 2011 Regulation, which aimed to define the scope of the profession of psychology (GNR 704 published in GG 34581, September 2, 2011), was declared invalid by the High Court of South Africa. EPASSA, as an amicus curiae, was involved in the court case, with the Professional Board for Psychology being a respondent. After the 2011 Regulation was deemed invalid, the Board for Psychology, as it was then composed, proposed the idea of a registration conversion program for educational psychologists whose training exceeded the Board’s Minimum Standards document. At a meeting with the newly appointed Board for Psychology on July 16, 2021, EPASSA expressed that transverse registration would not prevent discrimination against educational psychologists, as many practitioners who may not participate in transverse registration possess competencies beyond the Minimum Standards document. EPASSA challenged the legitimacy of the Minimum Standards document as a pseudo scope of practice and requested the newly appointed Board members to:

  1. Embark on a consultative process designed to review and revise the Minimum Standards document to bring it in line with the current regulatory framework and the public interest for purposes of education of new educational psychologists.
  2. Clarify that the Minimum Standards document is not the basis to determine the competence of educational psychologists and their scope of practice.
  3. Meet with EPASSA’s lawyers to iron out differences on issues of serious concern raised in EPASSA’s presentation.
  4. Provide clarity to medical schemes on the scope of an educational psychologist’s work and assert the Board’s jurisdiction regarding scope issues.
  5. Support EPASSA in its engagement with medical schemes to ensure the payment of educational (and other) psychologists who render health care services as defined in the Medical Schemes Act.
  6. Encourage recognition, understanding and respect across all fields of psychology and help to undo the bias that educational psychologists have been subjected to in the past and continue to endure.

EPASSA was pleased with its engagement with the newly appointed Board. The current Professional Board for Psychology has, since our meeting, been clear in stating, in effect, that the 2011 regulation was declared invalid in the High Court, no longer operates, and has not been replaced by any other document, including the Minimum Standards document.

Given the productive discussions that EPASSA has had with the newly appointed Board, we find it disappointing that we were not invited to comment on the procedures outlined in the December 2022 letter. We believe that it was a mistake for the Board not to engage with us on the details of the transverse registration policy, especially considering that EPASSA representatives serve on the Board’s task teams dealing with the Code of Conduct and with the viability of a forensic registration category.

EPASSA recognizes the urgency of the issue regarding the scope of practice. We have been requesting the Board’s assistance since 2011 and have been frustrated by what we perceived as stonewalling by the previously composed Board. An example of the urgency of this issue is the non-payment of educational psychologists by some medical schemes, which EPASSA has been engaged in addressing with our legal representatives, Webber Wentzel attorneys and Advocate Kameshni Pillay SC.

Given the urgency, and the potential for a review process against the Board’s confusing transverse registration policy, EPASSA has requested that the Board revisit its recent letter. Our request is based on, among other things, the following considerations:

In its December 2022 letter, the Professional Board claims that following the 2011 regulations, it ensured that all training programs were compliant with “new regulations.” However, it is common knowledge that these “new regulations” (the 2011 regulations) were invalid. The Board’s transverse registration policy relies heavily on these invalid regulations, making the policy appear illogical and regressive.

We understand that practitioners trained after 2011 would have acquired necessary basic competencies, however, we dispute that these competencies limit educational psychologists to specific areas of practice. The Board has acknowledged that the Minimum Standards document does not constitute a scope of practice. EPASSA stated to the Board on July 16, 2021, that there were issues with the Minimum Standards document, on which the Board’s transverse registration policy also relies.

Another issue is that EPASSA does not understand the reasoning behind requiring applicants seeking to change their registration category to provide proof of compliance with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and sign a declaration that they are in good standing. It goes without saying that all psychologists are expected to be CPD compliant, but we are unsure of how this relates to transverse registration. Nevertheless, this is not our primary objection.

Our major objection is that transverse registration and not also dual registration is permitted. As there is no valid scope of practice regulation, it is unclear how or why practitioners are to choose one registration category that best suits their competencies. What competencies distinguish psychologists registered in one category from those in another? Some colleagues have overlapping and/or additional competencies. These individuals should not be prevented from practicing their profession or from helping members of the public.

There are colleagues who already have dual registrations who will not be confined to one registration category. Excluding some psychologists from holding more than one registration and not others is arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory.

The Board’s insistence on applicants selecting one, discrete registration category supports EPASSA’s claim that a specific group of people who cannot change their identity are being discriminated against. An educational psychologist who wishes or is required to remain registered in the educational psychology category should not be discriminated against in terms of referrals and payment for services. The same applies to colleagues who qualified after 2011.

Psychologists wishing to change their categories will have to negotiate several obstacles. Many will not succeed or will be deterred by the requirements. The December 2022 letter provides no details regarding the availability of what may be limited placements for supervised practice, how this will affect the livelihoods of educational psychologists with established practices, and how it was decided that practitioners wishing to enrol in a new category must write Board exams that thousands of psychologists registered in those categories were not required to write.

How is it appropriate that educational psychologists, some of whom have been registered for over 30 years, must write Board exams to register while their colleagues remain registered without ever having written the same exams? Either all psychologists should have to write Board exams to remain registered or those already registered with the Board should not have to write exams to change their category. EPASSA recommends the former in the interests of equitable treatment. Board exams should determine entry for new psychologists into the profession of Psychology, not entry into a specific category. If it is determined that a Board exam is required for membership of a category, all psychologists should be compelled to write Board exams that they have not written before. To the best of our knowledge, few Board members themselves have written Board exams before entering the profession.

The transverse registration policy as it stands will perpetuate discrimination against educational psychologists who do not change their registration category. Educational psychologists are bound by parameters set in terms of the 2008 regulations. The 2008 regulations do not impose restrictions on psychological activities according to category of psychologist. The Board, however, is effectively demarcating differences between categories by disallowing dual registrations and by prohibiting transverse registration by practitioners who were admitted after 2011. The Board’s policy will perpetuate discrimination against educational psychologists who cannot change their membership of a group and, consequently, will compromise their patients, based on nefarious, imagined scope of practices that do not exist in law. It does not serve the interests of the profession or of the public to have a system that through vagueness, continuing confusion and ambiguity undermines rights to dignity, equality and access to health care and education.

EPASSA has therefore requested of the Board that:

  1. Dual registration as well as transverse registration should be options.
  2. Dual and transverse registration should be permitted for psychologists registered before and after 2011.
  3. Psychologists already registered as educational psychologists should not have to write Board exams to register in a new category.
  4. The period for dual and transverse registration should be extended by the period that it may take the Professional Board to institute the aforementioned changes.
  5. As many practitioners will not change their registration category, the Board should again note that only the 2008 regulations and the competence clauses contained in Annexure 12 of the Rules, specifically governing the Profession of Psychology of August 2006, have a bearing on a psychologist’s scope of work.
  6. We again call on the Board to encourage recognition, understanding and respect across all fields of psychology and help to undo the bias that educational psychologists have been subjected to in the past and that they continue to endure.
  7. We also, again, request the Board to support EPASSA in its engagement and interactions with medical schemes and the CMS, to ensure the payment of educational (and other) psychologists who render health care services as defined in the Medical Schemes Act.
  8. Furthermore, we request the board to explicate the criteria that will be used to determine whether an individual may transversely register, and the names, qualifications and affiliations of the people who will be making these decisions.

EPASSA hopes that the Board will take our concerns seriously. These are serious legal and constitutional issues that, if not addressed now, could result in legal review that will again retard progress in our profession. For these reasons, EPASSA has requested that the Board reconsider its recent letter with urgency and engage in further discussions with EPASSA regarding this matter.