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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

Patricia Higgins took up post as interim Chief Executive in September 2018 and was appointed into the post in July 2022. Patricia is supported by the Director of Registration and Corporate Services, Declan McAllister and the Director of Regulation and Standards, Marian O’Rourke.

Patricia was previously Director of Regulation and Standards with the Social Care Council from 2002 until 2018. Patricia is a social worker and has extensive experience in social work, working in the Voluntary Sector in the field of criminal justice. Prior to the establishment of the Social Care Council, 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.

As Director of Registration and Corporate Services, Declan is responsible for leading the Social Care Council’s work in maintaining the Northern Ireland Register for Social Workers and Social Care Workers. He is driven by a desire to inspire and develop others and as a Collective Leadership disciple, he is constantly working to support colleagues and promote the organisations values in everything that he does

Declan’s directorate includes the Registration and Database teams who work collaboratively to support registrants in maintaining their registration and managing new applications for registration from Social Care Workers, Social Work Students and both local and international Social Workers. A Psychology graduate from Queen’s 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 and young people in family law and adoption 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, he is currently leading on improvement initiatives to support better data and intelligence across the Social Work and Social Care sectors.

As 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 standards for social work education and training at both qualifying and post qualifying levels.

Marian’s directorate includes workforce development which supports registrants to meet their standards and maintain their registration through on-going learning and development. The directorate is responsible for Professional in Practice, the CPD framework for social workers in NI. The directorate also includes the Council’s Fitness to Practise process for investigating social workers’ and social care workers’ fitness to practise when concerns have been raised.

Marian qualified as a Social Worker in 1984. Her early career was in the justice sector where she worked as a Probation Officer. For the past 20 years she has worked in social work education and training and workforce regulation. Marian has undertaken a range of leadership roles and development opportunities associated with both her practice background, her role in regulation and at a broader strategic level across the public sector.