Thursday, 29 March 2012

PROFESSIONAL BODIES FOR CONDUCTORS

A rapid first response to awakened interest in Australia

Some conductors and others in Australia are currently exercised by the notion of a professional body.

The following very brief notes come from recollections of a previous detailed enquiry into this matter. That enquiry focussed upon the situation in the UK but probably generalises to many other count6ries with a tradition in the English Common Law. Europe is something else.

National

The nature and requirements for professional bodies are not absolute.
  • They will vary from country to country according to local law and circumstances. – and the what happens in one country will not necessarily be applicable to another.
  • Professional bodies therefore operate within particular jurisdictions – they cannot function internationally.
  • Within a given country the nature and authority of professional bodies will vary according to status and other factors.
  • Thus the scope and formal requirements of a professional body for lawyers or doctors will differ considerably from what a might be expected for schoolteachers or therapists.
  • A vital point of definition is the degree of professional self-regulation
Governance
  • A professional body has to be a legal entity – if it is not then it does not exist as far relationships with its outside world are concerned (negotiating, lobbying, representing etc.) – this makes it qualitatively different from a mere informal association or society
  • This legal entity should have a publicly available registered address – for both legal and practical purposes
  • It will have a formally adopted constitution (in drawing up which it ought to consult an appropriate lawyer – this Constitution to be subject to the informed agreement of its membership
  • Officials should be elected by and answerable to the membership, and accounts should be audited and publicly reported – all reported at an Annual General Meeting
  • Etc., etc... dull, administrative stuff – but get this wrong and it could prove very hard to put it right
Formal membership
  • There should be sharp, justifiable criteria for the body's membership (including possible grades of membership) – to be precisely defined within the body's Constitution
  • The body should maintain a Register of its subscribed members – and make clear the purpose of this register and its accessibility
  • The body may define rules for its members' work activity – noting that the nature of such rules may vary, for example a code of ethics is not the same as a code of conduct
  • The body should define its role in 'policing' its membership and formalise the mechanisms whereby this might be exercised – in other word, establish a disciplinary mechanism, for complaints, hearings, penalties, appeals etc.
  • Etc. etc...
Activities
  • The body's Constitution should identify what activities it intends to undertake, so that outsiders have some understanding of what sort of organisation they are sealing with – including of course the possibility of 'such other activities as are lawful' that may be formally agreed from time to time
  • These might include matters like representation, insurance etc., and raise in turn the body's own liabilities in such situations
  • The body may have to create and manage structures for maintaining/extending professional competence
  • Etc, etc...
Etc. etc...

Professional bodies take a lot of work to set up before they can start achieving their purposes. A professional body may cost money to get started and it certainly takes a lot of hours of hard, fiddly and time-consuming work to run.

Just because everything formally is in place does not mean that anyone outside will take a blind bit of notice. That will be down to politics – but sorting that out is a different matter. Suffice it here to say that all the costs of trying to become a professional body may prove not worth the candle, because the resulting body may still not have the clout to achieve its original purpose – and this possibility is well worth considering before starting. Perhaps a simple association or society might be more suited to the priorities of most of those presently involved with Conductive Education.

Nor does establishing such a body mean that everybody eligible will need or wish to join.

This presence interest in Australia has been prompted, as I understand it, the wish of some conductors in one part of the country to be acknowledged as equals to allied health professionals within the Better Start Initiative. In declining this, Better Start has stated –

One of the factors that we took into account was the need for families to have recourse in the event of misconduct or concerns about therapy quality by a provider. As a result, to be eligible for listing on the panel of providers as a sole provider category, the therapeutic discipline must have a professional body and that body must have complaint handling facilities.  This would be one of the things Conductive Education would have to negotiate if it were to be added to the panel.

I suspect that in addition to this Better Start would expect some other requirements to be met, of the sort that I have suggested above. Rather than speculate on this, those directly involved should ask Better Start just what it expects and receive in formal reassurances from the allied health bodies – and therefore what it might expect from conductors.

All this is of course may be quite different from the situation and requirements from conductors and their employers working on the other side of the country, and the other side of the great health-education divide.

Australia does seem rather good at working through things publicly. This will be interesting to follow.

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