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Knowledge Exchange and Evidence Newsletter

Image - Anne McGlade, Research Lead,
Social Care Council.

Welcome to the Northern Ireland Social Care Council’s (Social Care Council’s) new look summer edition of the Knowledge Exchange and Evidence Newsletter.

Graphic - Annual Social Work and Social Care Research.

The theme for the 2024 conference was ‘Collaborating to deliver safe an effective service: how research supports identity and addresses challenges?’

The theme offered the opportunity for an extension of the narrative highlighting the value of research and evidence to inform workforce decisions. This is especially important as the wider health and social care system is experiencing unprecedented high levels of staff vacancies turnover, burnout, issue of identity and increasing complexity of needs.

The conference in March brought together over 130 delegates and speakers drawn from social care and social work policy, practice, management, academia and service users and a creative and imaginative programme was arranged.

Keynote speeches at the event included:

‘Filling the bath with the plug out? Perceptions of safe staffing, self-reported mental wellbeing and intentions to leave among U.K. social workers’ by Dr Paula McFadden (Ulster University) and Patricia Nicholl (Queen’s University).

– ‘How do mindfulness-based practices and psychoeducation improve stress, burnout, mental health and well-being of social workers?’ By Dr Alan Maddock (University College Dublin)

– ‘Shaping Social Work Identity: An All-Ireland Study’ by Carolyn Ewart BASW(NI) in collaboration with IASW, NISCC and CORU. 

‘If love is the answer, community is the context and tenderness the methodology’ – a relational approach to gathering and using evidence’ by Nick Andrews and Fiona Verity (Swansea University).

The conference featured over 20 oral presentations which also facilitated dialogue and discussion.

Each presentation was well attended and conference participants engaged actively in the discussions as the presenters shared their findings.

The conference also featured a poster presentation, with attendees voting for their favourite. The winner on the day was Evelyn Curran from Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) with Ulster University’s Emma McGinnis.

All poster presentations were however excellent and offer a creative method for delivering research and evidence messages.

At our award ceremony as part of the conference many picked up awards for achievement at Post Graduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters level – A huge congratulations to all.

Some light relief was provided by Karen Diamond and the Equal Notes Choir with a warm and uplifting musical interlude that brought joy and wellbeing into the room.

Social Care Council Chief Executive Patricia Higgins said:

“The value of having a conference like this, that draws on a diverse range of perspectives and evidence helps provide transparency in any discussions, focusing not just on the challenges, but also in the potential supports and enablers.”

The Social Care Council would like to thank all the organisations who made the effort to come along and display material about the work they do relevant to research and evidence. These display stands and representatives offered delegates wider opportunities for engagement and networking and connectivity with a range of organisations. 

Photo of attendees who attended the Annual Social Work and Social Care Research conference.
Group photo of attendees who attended the Annual Social Work and Social Care Research conference.

Research and Evidence Partnership Stakeholder event

Research and Evidence Partnership Stakeholder event attendees.

In May, Social Care Council Chief Executive Patricia Higgins welcomed over 50 people to a stakeholder’s event to discuss with individuals and organisations their views on the proposal to develop a Research Evidence Partnership as a Committee of the Council’s Board. This will be chaired by Professor Davy Hayes (QUB).

Attendees came from a variety of statutory, voluntary, academic and private organisations as well as attendance from a number of people with lived experiences and caring responsibilities.

What emerged was an interactive, enthusiastic and constructive discussion that explored the value and contribution of any such partnership, its purpose, scope and membership.

Some of the tasks identified centred on the value of creating links with the wider research infrastructure, locally and nationally, seeking out funding streams, exploring gaps in evidence and identifying the types of priorities to help generate research and evidence that will inform policy and practice.

Graphic for working in partnership.

The Council was supported at the event by input from colleagues with a wealth of academic and practice wisdom including Professors John Devaney of Edinburgh University, Brian Taylor of Ulster University and Jonathan Jackson from NI Clinical Trials.  

The Council would like to thank Mary Boyle, HSC Leadership Centre for facilitating the event. A report will be released in due course using the information and insights gained.

Research and Evidence Partnership Stakeholder event attendees.

Building a research community?

Established in 2020, ‘Building a Research Community’ group meets quarterly to discuss research models, network and share good practice and generate new ideas.

If you would like to find out more about this research community, please email:

Addressing workforce challenges and co-creating a social care workforce that can deliver now and into the future

Image - Mervyn Bothwell, Professional Adviser, Social Care Council.

The social services workforce is a fundamental part of social protection systems across the EU and plays a key role in improving people’s lives. The demand for social services, support, and protection is rapidly increasing across Europe and beyond. This increase in demand places significant pressure on public social services and the workforce they employ, whilst also facing budget constraints, recruitment, and retention issues. 

Addressing workforce challenges and building strategies is an important way to respond to the social care and support needs of individuals and families in vulnerable situations.

Social services professionals should be part of the solution to these challenges by being meaningfully involved in the conversations, plans and programmes put forward to address them. 

Three different approaches to address these social service workforce challenges with a particular focus on how professionals are co-creating these solutions will be presented. The Social Care Council will present its social care workforce reform plans, which focus on co-creating a social care workforce that can deliver for now and into the future. CNFPT, the National Centre for Local Public Administration in France will explain how they are integrating the views of people using social services into practitioners’ training. The West University of Timisoara will present findings from the first study in Romania on the views of social work practitioners on the profession, and how the results will contribute to improving the voice of professionals to bring about workforce reform. 

Mervyn’s presentation will include:

– Social care context and challenges in Northern Ireland.

– Commissioned work from Department of Health about the Continuous Professional Learning Framework, career structure and qualification-based register.

– Social Care Council’s collaboration, engagement and consultation work and research/evidence base.

– Learning acquired.

European Conference for Social Work Research

The 13th European Conference for Social Work Research took place in April 2024 at Vilnius University.

This year’s theme was ‘Envisioning the Future of Social Work Research in the 21st Century’. The event attracted a huge diversity of speakers from across Europe and further afield and was a creative and innovative conference exploring the threats and opportunities of AI – the negatives but also the benefits.

Speakers ranged along a continuum from ‘AI Threatens societal and global survival’ to ‘AI has the capability outperform human capabilities offering unimaginative opportunities and possibilities.’ 

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI) had excellent representation from speakers presenting on various research and evidence projects, including the Social Care Council’s Research Lead Anne McGlade along with Ulster University’s Paula McFadden.

In addition, the Chair of the European Social Work Research Association (ESWRA) Board is Professor Karen Winter of Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Mandi McDonald delivered a key note address at the conference exploring technological digital technologies relationships between birth families and children with the emphasis on safe models of contact.

Click here for more details.

Post Qualifying Research Methods Programme

For more information about the Post Qualifying Research Methods programme, watch the video below. Presented by Professor Paula McFadden.

Research Methods Programme

Northern Ireland Probation Officer awarded Butler Trust Award

Image - Gloria McKenna, Probation Officer, Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI).

Probation Officer Gloria McKenna was recently recognised by the Butler Trust for over 40 years of service to the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) with an award presented by HRH Princess Anne. Daily, Gloria goes “above and beyond” the call of duty. Throughout her career she has inspired many individuals, both staff and clients.

Click here for the latest ESWRA newsletter ‘Evidence into Practice Special Interest Group’.

Open University Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC)   

The Northern Ireland Social Work and Social Care Research Networking Group has news about an Open University (OU) Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The OU delivers a part-time, blended learning doctoral programme in Health and Social Care (DHSC) to professionals across Northern Ireland and Britain. The programme has been running since 2019 and has attracted a wide range of health and social care staff.

All-Ireland Social Work Research Conference

Date: Friday 29 November 2024.
Time: 9:30am-4pm.
Location: Carmelite Community Centre,
56 Aungier St,
Dublin 2.

Practice Links

In-person workshop: Click here for more information.

Virtual session: Click here for more information.

Date: Tuesday 19 November 2024.
Location: Microsoft Teams.
Time: 10.30am – 12pm.

Building Research Partnerships (NI) training has been designed for:

  1. Patients, carers and members of the public who are involved in or are interested in becoming involved as public partners in research, and;
  2. Researchers who want to learn more about how to implement Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) through-out the research cycle, and build more effective PPI partnerships.

Due to demand, we are holding an in-person full day workshop on Tuesday 24 September 2024. This interactive workshop will focus on the practical ways to involve patients, carers and the public as partners (PPI) in the research process. It will also explore the issues related to becoming and being a member of the public involved in research and the role of researchers in facilitating this involvement. The workshop will be held in NICVA, 4 Duncairn Garderns, Belfast. To register, please click here.

Our next ‘live follow-up PPI session’ will be held on Tuesday 19 November 2024 (10.30am-12pm). This shorter session will be delivered virtually and enables researchers and patients, carers and members of the public to come together and ask questions, get practical support on PPI, and network. To register email Cara McClure at:

Before attending either the workshop or virtual session, please complete Section 1 of the ‘Building Research Partnerships’ NI training; this consists of a series of the pre-recorded presentations that give an ‘Introduction to Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) in research’ and can be accessed at any time.

If you require further details please contact Cara McClure at:

For further information on the training please click here.

If you want to find additional PPI resources, the Public Health Agency (PHA) have recently developed a PPI Resource Library for researchers and a PPI Resource Library for patients, carers and members of the public.

You can also contact Janet Diffin, HSC R&D Division Programme Manager for further information on PPI in research, by emailing:

Why not check out the Health Care Library, a great resource for health and social care professionals across Northern Ireland. Click here.

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