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Our People

Our team of over 60 people consists of social workers, FTP and Committee officers, data and IT specialists, registration advisors, marketing communication experts, business support officers, workforce development advisors and learning and development specialists. Our values underpin our culture and set a foundation for how we work together both inside and outside the organisation. We are driven by our purpose and making a positive difference in everything we do. 


Our Senior Leadership Team

The Interim Chief Executive, Patricia Higgins is accountable to the Board for organisational performance and management. Patricia is supported by the Director of Registration and Corporate, Declan McAllister Services and the Director of Regulation and Standards, Marian O’Rourke.

Patricia Higgins is responsible for Social Care Council Workforce Standards for education, training and practice. This includes: social care training, social work training, practice learning, continuing professional development, & professional conduct. She has been a Director within the Social Care Council since June 2002 and has led the development and implementation of the Councils’ registration and conduct functions. Patricia qualified as a social worker in 1985 from the University of Ulster. She has a BSc Hons in Sociology and Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. Patricia successfully completed the Kings Fund Top Manager Programme in 2007 and the HSC Leadership Centre ACUMEN leadership programme in 2012.

Patricia has extensive experience in social work, working in the Voluntary Sector in a range of settings: managing accommodation schemes for adult offenders; setting up community based crime prevention projects and managing a social work training unit and social work student unit. Prior to the establishment of NISCC, Patricia worked for the Central Council for Education & Training in Social Work as a Social Work Education Adviser. In CCETSW, she held lead responsibility for Diploma in Social Work programmes, Criminal Justice and Workforce Analysis. Development work included production of the social work text “Social Work and Social Change in Northern Ireland” and collaborating with colleagues in producing the anti-sectarian training pack “Getting Off the Fence”. Patricia also led an advertising campaign for social work called “Social Work Works”.


Declan is the Director of Registration and Corporate Services at the Social Care Council who is driven by a desire to inspire and develop others. As a Collective Leadership disciple, he is constantly working to support colleagues and promote the organisations values in everything that he does. A  Psychology graduate from Queens University Belfast, he spent his early career developing his people skills in advertising and marketing before returning to Queens to complete a Masters Degree in Information Management. He cut his teeth in the private care sector up to 1996 before taking up the position of Corporate Services Manager with the Northern Ireland Guardian ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) where he spent 21 years helping shape the statutory service for the representation of children in family law and adoption proceedings which included the introduction of the NIGALA electronic case management system GCIS in 2008 and in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service he orchestrated the introduction of the Criminal Justice Secure Mail system (CJSM) in family proceedings.

Appointed in July 2017 Declan works collaboratively with all staff and stakeholders to continue to strengthen the levels of public confidence in the social work and social care professions. A champion of digital transformation and how it can support the delivery of social work and social care and a recent joint author on Digital Skills and Learning for the Social Care Workforce published in the JMIR Medical Education Journal. A strong believer in the power of positive thinking he has built up working relationships with key decision makers, service users and carers, academics and enthusiastic innovators in order to shape and support the delivery of high quality care and make a difference to the health and wellbeing of people in Northern Ireland.


As interim Director of Regulation and Standards, Marian is responsible for leading the Social Care Council’s work in setting standards of conduct and practice for the social work and social care workforces and supporting registrants to meet their standards and improve their practice.

Marian’s directorate includes workforce development which helps registrants to maintain their registration though on-going learning and development as well as regulation of social work education and training at both qualifying levels and Fitness to Practise. 

Marian qualified as a Social Worker in 1984. Her early career was in the justice sector where she worked as a Probation Officer. In 1999 she was appointed as Professional Manager with the Northern Ireland Post Qualifying Education and Training Partnership (NIPQETP) and joined the Social Care Council in 2009. In 2014 she was appointed as Head of Workforce Development, with responsibility for workforce regulation and standards across the Northern Ireland social work and social care workforce.  Marian has undertaken a range of leadership development opportunities associated with both her practice background, role in regulation and at a broader strategic level across the public sector.