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‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ - film highlights story of leading NI disability activist

01 December 2023

What is it like to live in a world that has already made up its mind about you? Today, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (the Social Care Council) in partnership with the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queens University Belfast, present ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’, a film about Joanne Sansome, a disability activist who has fought hard to be recognised as a campaigner, educator and published social researcher.

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Joanne dreamt of studying Graphic Design at University and living in America. In the film she discusses her experience of breaking down the barriers she faced, her journey to becoming a disability activist and how in doing so she has influenced social work education in Northern Ireland. She also gives her account of how the Covid-19 pandemic increased inclusion for many people living with a disability and shares her ambitions to pursue research at University now she has completed her Masters in Social Research Methods.

The film, captures the conversations between Joanne and her friend and colleague, Professor Joe Duffy, and is an inspiring account of the journey to activism, from an inspirational woman. It offers a glimpse into Joanne’s life, difficult challenges and shows step by step how she found a way through a far from easy educational system and how she eventually flourished. Today, she is passionate and determined to make a difference in the world of social work education and disability activism by ensuring people with a disability in Northern Ireland and beyond are able to exercise their rights.

Professor Joe Duffy believes Joanne’s unwavering journey as a passionate activist can help shape and influence the education and training of current and future social work students.

Joanne’s story, her journey, is one of determination, imagination, positivity and possibility, there is something in this for everybody and this film will be an important educational resource, going forward. It is a resource that is hope inspiring.

Patricia Higgins, Chief Executive, Social Care Council Chief believes that when others hear Joanne’s story they will be inspired.

We are thrilled to have helped Joanne share her story for others to hear. When you listen to Joanne’s journey, you can’t help but admire her drive to not take ‘no’ for an answer when it came to something she and all of us should be entitled to. Among her many achievements, we are grateful that she has chosen to ensure we as a workforce regulator hear the service user and carer voice in meaningful and authentic way “in all that we do.

The invite only film premiere of ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way – A conversation with Joanne Sansome and Professor Joe Duffy’ takes place at the Queens Film Theatre, Belfast today, in advance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December which aims to promote the rights and well-being of all disabled people. The film screening is followed by a Q&A where Joanne will answer questions from the audience, alongside a panel of social work students. 

Notes to Editors

Want to know more about Joanne? 

Joanne sits on the Social Care Council’s

She is a researcher and activist with a physical disability from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland and on a broader U.K. basis, she has worked with government and non-governmental organisations, with universities, and within organisations of disabled people to create awareness of and further the understanding of disability rights. In Northern Ireland, working collectively has led to opportunities to significantly shape the concept, research and delivery of service user and carer involvement within social work education, particularly as an active member of the Social Care Council’s Participation Partnership (which consists of people who use services and carers from a range of backgrounds and experiences) and the Disability Research of Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) National Advisory group of Northern Ireland.

In 2016, She completed a Masters dissertation at Queen’s University Belfast, exploring the participation of disabled people within public and political life. She had a chapter published within the, award-winning, *Routledge Handbook of Disability Activism and has recently published another chapter within The Routledge Handbook of Service User Involvement in Human Services Research and Education

*This title won the Taylor & Francis’ most outstanding handbook in the social sciences for 2019. 

For more information or if you are interested in speaking with Joanne Sansome or Professor Joe Duffy about the film please contact:

Rita McCullagh,
Head of Strategic Communications and Engagement