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19 April 2024 - Press Release IASW Launches paper supporting best practice in safeguarding in Adult Mental Health Services

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) event today (Friday 19 April) – Safeguarding in Adult Mental Health: Building Blocks towards Best Practice – contextualizes the complexity of skills, knowledge and practices required in the area of safeguarding and adult mental health. The conference welcomes international and national subject experts including Vicky Soutar, Lecturer in Social Work, University of Stirling, Scotland; Jackie McIlroy, former Deputy Chief Social Worker & HSE Adult Safeguarding Review; and Marcella Leonard MBE, Director of Leonard Consultancy and panel member of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse redress scheme. 

As the named lead registered profession for adult safeguarding in Ireland, social workers in mental health are tasked with the primary implementation of policies that support adults at risk of abuse, neglect, and extreme self-neglect. The complexities of this work are compounded by Mental Health Services not falling within the remit of the National Safeguarding Policy (2014). This essentially means that Mental Health Social Workers are tasked with carrying out their own established Social Work role within their teams, while also managing safeguarding processes and pieces of work with adults at risk of abuse within the Mental Health Service. This is an already complex dual role which is amplified by the lack of formal policy or legislative guidance for Mental Health Services and Safeguarding.  

The Law Reform Commission, in the context of the launch of their report – A Regulatory Framework for Adult Safeguarding – earlier this week, recommends the establishment of a social work-led adult safeguarding body with a statutory function to promote the health, safety and welfare of at-risk adults. Recent changes in the legislative and policy landscape, including the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, the National Consent Policy and the NIRP (National Independent Review Panel) Report on the “Emily” case, further amplify the relevance and pertinence of ensuring the rights of adults at risk of abuse are protected.   

As a tangible step towards supporting broader system and structural change in Irish health and social care services in the area of safeguarding, the IASW is launching a briefing paper – Advanced Social Work Practice in Adult Mental Health – at today’s conference, which advocates for focused effort and investment in social work to ensure consistent high standards, and quality, safe and effective services.

IASW Spokesperson: Kerry Cuskelly via the office on 086 0241055


Advanced Social Work Practice in Adult Mental Health 19.04.24