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Forum With Fionnuala Looks Forward To Future Of Social Work In Northern Ireland


Following World Social Work Day which was celebrated last week, Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children visited Queen’s University Belfast today to hold an open discussion forum on leadership in social work with a group of Social Work students to mark the day in Northern Ireland.

World Social Work Day is celebrated around the globe highlighting the work that social workers carry out and giving them recognition for their invaluable contribution to society. The theme of the day this year was ‘Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples’ which relates to the second pillar of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. In Northern Ireland, there is a drive to build leadership and trust in the social work profession through the DHSSPS Social Work Strategy, Improving and Safeguarding Social Wellbeing: A Ten Year Strategy for Social Work.

Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children at the Health and Social Board was delighted to see the young, ambitious Social Work students who communicated their hopes and aspirations for their future careers in the social care sector. Fionnuala outlined her leadership expectations of the future professionals. Plans are already in place to follow up with the same group of students as they finish their studies and embark on their social work careers.

Mrs McAndrew was fully supportive of the ten young students she met,

“There is a growing respect for social workers in Northern Ireland and the challenging job that they have. It is an enabling, empowering role which protects members of our society who are at risk of abuse and exploitation. It is wonderful to witness these young people who have such a strong interest in developing their career aspirations in the sector and I look forward to working with them in future years.”

Currently there are nearly 6,000 social workers practicing in Northern Ireland. There is a strong interest in social work as a profession with a high academic standard with nine applicants for every university place.

Dr John Devaney, Senior Lecturer at the School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social Work Queen’s University Belfast and recent winner of the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers Lifetime Achievement Award, welcomed Fionnuala,

“Social Work is a challenging but rewarding profession that has, at its heart, a respect for the dignity of individuals and communities. We are fortunate in Northern Ireland to have a high calibre of applicants for the places we offer to study Social Work at Queen’s University. One of the great strengths of the course is the close co-operation with employers, to ensure that students benefit from high quality work experience as part of their studies. The Social Work staff at Queen’s University welcomes the opportunity to support the Social Work Strategy and to provide opportunities for our students to shape the future of social work.”

Noelle Barton, Social Work Strategy Programme Manager at the Health and Social Care Board fully appreciates how the students will contribute to the future work of the Board,

“Promoting trust and leadership in the social work profession is a key priority for the Social Work Strategy and it is events such as this that reflect the importance of leadership in social work. Current social work students are social work leaders for tomorrow. Engaging with the Health and Social Care Board Director of Social Work provides an excellent opportunity for the students to stimulate debate and reinforce the importance of leadership at every level in social work.”