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Social Work Research, Evidence and Innovation Across Northern Ireland


Social work research, evidence and innovation in Northern Ireland took centre stage today at an event at Stormont Hotel. Hosted by the health and social work organisations delegates engaged in the launch of the Social Work Research and Continuous Improvement Strategy (2015-2020), and had the opportunity to enjoy and learn from a range of Social Work Innovations developed and implemented by social work professionals across Northern Ireland.

Funded by the Social Work Strategy, the Innovation Scheme aims to provide short-term ‘seed’ funding to support social workers in testing out ideas about how to improve practice or service provision, which in turn, will improve the experience and lives of those who use social work services.

The Northern Ireland Social Work Strategy 2012-2022 sets out a framework for social work practice and aims to strengthen and support the social work profession to deliver high quality, effective and safe service in a challenging and changing environment.

Sean Holland, Chief Social Work Officer for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety was present at the event and was highly impressed with the array of enthusiasm and concepts on show;

“Social workers are well used to working with clients to find innovative solutions to the challenges in their lives. Today’s event is about how we can harness that creativity social workers have and use it to be innovative in shaping services.”

Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children at the Health and Social Care Board, welcomes the new initiatives that the second year of the scheme has brought;

“I am delighted to see the broad range of Innovations reflected here today. Building on the success of last year’s Social Work Innovation Scheme, this provides strong evidence of the dedication and commitment social workers have in improving social work services and of working together with service users and community organisations to improve social wellbeing.”

This is the second year of the Social Work Innovation Scheme and all innovations currently being progressed are as part of the implementation of Improving and Safeguarding Social Wellbeing: A Strategy for Social Work. Today’s event enabled prospective applicants for the 2016/17 scheme to meet with successful applicants to witness the ongoing projects in making improvements in social work practice and service  provision, with innovators present sharing their experiences of implementing innovations.

Paula Hanna, representing Physical Disability and Sensory services at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and winner of the Innovation scheme and Social Work awards 2015, was on hand to explain the on-going success of their project:

“We have developed the review and care planning process to incorporate person-centred practice. This means that service users are now taking ownership of their review meetings and indeed the documents, to the extent that they are beginning to complete the paperwork themselves. This has led to a change of mind set in that they now take greater control and ownership of their lives. They have also realised that they can change the delivery of services in order to enhance their existing strengths, while getting the correct support to meet their needs.”

“Additionally, the changes have also led to increased confidence and self-esteem as service users can now visibly see their own strengths and this has enhanced their ability to participate in decision making processes.”

In profiling the importance of research and evidence for underpinning practice and service provision the Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, launched the Social Work Research and Continuous Improvement Strategy 2015-2020. A first for Northern Ireland this important Strategy represents a landmark in the on-going professionalization and professionalism of social work. Its objective is of building a strong research and evidence-informed professional community dedicated to improving outcomes for service users and carers.

Speaking after the event Anne McGlade, Social Work Research Lead for Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) who was responsible for driving forward this work expressed her delight at having reached a key milestone with the launch of the Social Work Research Strategy and Continuous Improvement Strategy.

“This has been an exciting journey that we have all been on over the last couple of years. I am delighted that we have reached this key milestone today with the Strategy’s launch. Those who spoke at today’s event have reinforced the importance of generating a culture research mindedness within social work.”

“I would like to acknowledge the interest and commitment shown by so many people throughout the development of the Strategy.  This was an important part of the process which was needed in order to build up interest and momentum. This momentum and commitment needs to be sustained as we move forward together with our implementation”.

Key note speakers at the event included experts and representatives from; The  Social Work Strategy Citizen’s Forum,  DHSSPS,  the National Clinical Lead for Integrated Care in Scotland, South Eastern Trust, Northern Trust, Personal and Public Involvement (Service User perspective) Queen’s University Belfast ,Health and Social Care Board and HSC R and D Division PHA.