The EPASSA committee regrets to inform our members that we have learnt that Relpag struck a deal with the Minister of Health and the HPCSA before their scheduled court case. Whereas Relpag is upbeat about the result, the EPASSA committee does not believe that the deal was the best one possible for educational psychology.
EPASSA was eager to argue our case as amicus curiae in court, with our lawyers having flown down and standing ready and waiting in Cape Town. The committee had spent approximately R200 000, and months preparing, working night and day in the past weeks.
This past Sunday, the EPASSA Chairperson, Dr Martin Strous, was informed by Dr Kobus Scholtmeyer of Relpag that an out of court settlement had been negotiated that morning, prior to Monday’s Court case. Relpag was apparently too cash strapped to continue in court. This is a pity because we thought that Relpag had a good chance of succeeding in a significant part of the action, and such success would have brought significant, immediate relief to our besieged profession. Given the context of how far we had journeyed, Dr Strous informed Dr Scholtmeyer that he thought the settlement agreement was disastrous. Nevertheless, Relpag finalised the deal on Monday, in a settlement agreement that was made an order of court.
The deal struck between Relpag and the Minister and HPCSA includes the following:
Relpag will be receiving what we suspect will be a significant amount of money for its past legal costs.
Although the scope of practice is recognized as having been promulgated unlawfully, it will continue to operate for up to two years until a new scope of practice (or perhaps the current scope) is re-introduced in a manner that follows the correct legal procedures.
A part of the action has been postponed, to a date that has not been set and that may never happen.
We are advised by our attorney that if an educational psychologist is charged for working out of scope of practice in the next two years, they may be able to raise as a defence that the ethical rules have not yet been determined by the court.
EPASSA believes that one good to thing come of this is that our regulators will have to act more lawfully in the future. However, those who discriminate against educational psychologists could be emboldened by Relpag’s withdrawal.
EPASSA is powerless to do anything about the outcome of this dissatisfying event. However, we will do everything possible to continue fighting our just cause.
Dr Strous has written to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) stating that intervention by the SAHRC is now even more pertinent and urgent than before. He has also written to the Chairperson of the Professional Board for Psychology, stating that EPASSA hopes that the out of court settlement now liberates the Professional Board to release guidelines previously promised to us. EPASSA would like to have sight of these guidelines before they are released publicly. EPASSA also requested a roundtable meeting with the Board Chairperson, the Council for Medical Schemes and medical aids within the next two weeks, but Professor Pillay has responded that he is too busy at this time of year.
EPASSA, as the largest association of educational psychologists, will make future submissions to the Board relating to a new scope of practice. We may also consider new alliances within the world of psychology.
EPASSA has suffered a serious setback with the Relpag issue despite our best efforts and hard work, because of events beyond our control. It is now time to regroup and re-organise. We plan on bouncing back with renewed vigour. We thank our members for their incredible support and assure you of our unflagging commitment to fighting against discrimination against educational psychologists and educational psychology.