Now in its fourth year, the Annual Social Care and Social Work Research in Practice Conference, a joint initiative between the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency, took place at the start of March at Belfast Castle.
The theme of this year’s conference Intervening to strengthen families and communities to keep people safe, with an emphasis on how the impact of intervention is measured, attracted 96 delegates from across the health and social care sector, academia, service users and carers. Opening the conference, Fionnuala McAndrew, Director of Social Care and Children, paid tribute to the hard work of staff and the sector’s achievements over the past year.
A showcase of work spanning the social care spectrum was presented by national and local speakers. Future innovations to address the difficult challenges of dementia in older persons including innovative and multi-facted inventions delivered by service robots – the innovative Mario Project – were discussed in the All-Ireland Dementia Study. Queen’s University Belfast’s John Devaney presented the latest research into infant death and offered practitioners guidance on how this research could be used inclusively on a practical level with service users. The Conference provides a platform for social work practitioners to present the outcomes of work undertaken in their own areas of practice through oral and poster presentations. This year the organisers said the response to the call for abstracts was very good and attracted high quality submissions and that this year as with previous years, the standard exceeded expectations.
As with previous years, the event reinforced the importance of service user and carer engagement in research and delegates were privileged to listen to and watch an enlightening presentation which included young people with a disability.
Rounding off the day, the medium of drama was used in a performance by Rainbow Group to express the many emotive and complex issues impacting on young people’s lives today including bullying, mental health and suicide in an age where social media predominates.
The Outcome Reports from this and previous conferences will be made available on http://www.hscboard.hscni.net/swresearch/ .