EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY is at risk of being "hijacked" so that it has little impact on people's lives, according to one of the service's leading figures in Scotland.
Tommy MacKay, director of Psychology Consultancy Services, believes that educational psychologists could become bogged down in bureaucracy at a time when they should be leading efforts to tackle increasing mental health problems among children.
Mr MacKay raised his concerns at the British Psychological Society's education and child psychology division annual conference in Glasgow last week.
He fears that the introduction of co-ordinated support plans under the new Additional Support for Learning Act present "an ongoing danger of educational psychologists spending too much time on bureaucratic activities".
Mr MacKay said: "Educational psychology has often been - and is always in danger of being - sidetracked in its focus and hijacked in its agenda, so that it becomes preoccupied with activities that have little real impact on people's lives."
Mr MacKay believes educational psychologists should be central to improving the mental health of the nation's children generally rather than focusing on individual cases.
"When it comes to children and young people, educational psychologists are the obvious people to be at the heart of the agenda for promoting wellbeing and addressing mental health problems," he said. "They are the most plentiful in the child and adolescent arena, and they are the psychologists who, as a profession, are most fully equipped to work as generic child psychologists across the settings of home, school and community."
Mr MacKay also feels that educational psychologists can influence solutions to wider problems, helping society "to achieve major social and political goals: reduced crime levels, a more skilled workforce, a stronger economy".
The Scottish Executive said that there were more educational psychologists in Scotland than ever before and that the Additional Support for Learning Act should mean a reduction in bureaucracy.