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FULLY BOOKED IASW National Social Work Conference & AGM

  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Northgate Street Co. Westmeath, Athlone
  • 9.00 Registration, 10.00 - 4.00 Conference
  • 12 May 2017

Price €30 IASW members/€60 non-members

Of Hearts and Minds: The Practice of Relationships

Price includes lunch and refreshments.




We advise that conference participants leave plenty of time to find parking and to get to the conference on time. There is a total of 140 spaces at the hotel and plenty of on street parking opposite the hotel. Below please see a link which details all the car parking facilities in the area along with prices/opening times etc for your review;



Relationship-based practice and reflective practice are two areas that IASW members continually ask to know more about. We hope that the conference will provide a forum for the professional development of participants, building professional confidence and identity. The conference aims to provide a forum to support participants to reflect on their practice and on the organisational and wider contexts impacting on social work practice. Some key areas for consideration include:

  • The need to build reflective capabilities in order to develop the professional self
  • How will you support yourself/ your team/ your organisation to be more reflective as practitioners?


Of Hearts and Minds: The Practice of Relationships

Conference Programme

9.00      Registration / Tea & Coffee / View Poster Presentations

10.00 Welcome from IASW Chairperson

10.15 Where have all the feelings gone? Understanding the Place of Emotions in Social Work Practice (Gillian Ruch)

11.10 Thinking Critically about the Person-in-Society: Towards a Model of Reflexivity in Social Work (Stan Houston)

11.50 Relationship-based Social Work - A 'Thirdspace' in Responding to Trauma (Erna O'Connor)

12.15    Lunch & view Poster Presentations

1.15 – 2.15       Snapshots from Research and Practice (4 x 15 minutes)

  •    Hardwired for connection: Is research-mindedness a sign of wellbeing? - Nerilee Ceatha 
  •   Family welfare conferencing as a tool for partnership - Hannaleena Ahonen
  •   The curious incidence of the empathic social worker in the night – reflective practice and Child to Parent Violence and Abuse - Declan Coogan
  •  Voices from Practice: Narratives of Interrelated Factors Leading to Mutual Mistrust in Social Work Encounters with Asylum Seeking Families - Colletta Dalikeni

2.15      Tea & Coffee

2.30       Roundtable Discussion

3.15      Feedback from Facilitators

3.45   Discussion and Ways Forward

4.00      Close of Conference


4.15     Irish Association of Social Workers Annual General Meeting


The conference will be chaired by Rory Truell, the Secretary-General of the International Federation of Social Workers. IFSW is the global body representing social work practice, comprising of 124 country members and holds consultative status with the United Nations and regional bodies. Dr Truell works directly with frontline social work services, government leaders and international agencies building relationships and promoting understanding on the profession’s unique contributions to building economies and the wellbeing of society. He frequently speaks and writes on the importance of building community engagement in social protections systems, challenges for the profession, and social work solutions to community and societal problems. Dr Truell is an Honorary Professor at Durham University (UK) and a visiting professor or keynote speaker globally.  He regularly writes on social work practice in the Guardian. 

Gillian Ruch is Professor of Social Work and works in the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex and the Tavistock Centre, London. She teaches and researches in the areas of child care social work and relationship-based and reflective practice and is committed to enhancing the wellbeing of children, families and practitioners. Her particular interests are in promoting psycho-social research methods and reflective forums that facilitate relationship-based practice. She has recently co-edited with colleagues Ruch, G., Turney, D. and Ward, A. (2010) Relationship-based Social Work: Getting to the Heart of Practice, London: Jessica Kingsley. 

Stan Houston worked for around 20 years in social work in Belfast, mostly in family and child-care. After that, he moved to higher education, lecturing in the University of Ulster and then Queen's University Belfast until 2015. Last year, he moved to Trinity to lecture in social work. Stan's interests lie in the application of critical social theory to social work and he has published widely on this theme. He has also developed practical tools and methods for social work practice, including a model of reflexivity that will be summarized in his conference presentation.

Erna O'Connor is an Assistant Professor of Social Work, Director of the Master in Social Work programme and Fieldwork Co-ordinator at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, Dublin. Prior to this, she worked as a social worker in drug treatment and HIV services and as a social worker and social work team leader in hospital-based social work. Erna's PhD research explored relationship-based social work as a response to trauma. Her teaching and research interests include health-related social work, bereavement and trauma, reflective and relationship-based practice, practice learning and transnational social work.

Nerilee Ceatha is a Social Work Team Leader with Tusla, Child and Family Agency. She is based in the National Research Office with part-time study leave to undertake a PhD. She plans to conduct mixed-methods participatory research with children and young people. Nerilee was jointly awarded Social Work Researcher of the Year 2016 due to her promotion of social work practitioner research and advocacy of research-minded practice.

Hannaleena Ahonen is the Service Leader for the Family Welfare Conference Service covering Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. Prior to this Hannaleena worked as a social worker in the Child and Family Agency. Hannaleena is interested in research, and was part of completing a pathways and outcomes study involving 335 referrals to the Service.

Declan Coogan, PhD, is a lecturer in Social Work in the School of Political Science and Sociology and a Research Fellow with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. He is a registered social worker and family therapist with practice experience in community child and adolescent mental health and child protection and welfare services. He is committed to developing and supporting close links between social work practitioners and researchers. Declan was awarded a PhD in Sociology by NUI Galway in 2016 for action research focusing on child to parent violence and Non Violent Resistance. He has written and spoken extensively on these themes and facilitates a training programme for practitioners on Non Violent Resistance for Child to Parent Violence and Abuse.

Dr Colletta Dalikeni is a Lecturer in Social Care in the Department of Humanities at Dundalk Institute of Technology. Originally from Zimbabwe but now living and working in Ireland. Colletta previously worked as a child protection social worker and a link social worker within the fostering team for eight years in the Dublin North East area. Her Doctoral research into the experiences of child protection social workers and asylum seeking families in direct provision stemmed from her interest in issues of cultural diversity and the emerging issues in child protection social work with asylum seekers at the time. Colletta’s teaching and research interests centre on migration, cultural competence in social work education and practice, Social work practice within a multicultural context, social work with immigrants, ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and refugees


Please contact the Radisson Blu Hotel directly at 090 6442600 if you wish to book a hotel room. There are a limited suppy of rooms at the delegate rate which is as follows:

  • €120 Bed & Breakfast Single Occupancy
  • €130 Bed & Breakfast Double/Twin Occupancy
  • €150 Dinner, Bed & Breakfast Single Occupancy
  • €190 Dinner, Bed & Breakfast Double/Twin Occupancy

These rates and rooms will be available to book until next Wednesday, 3rd May 2017.



We are inviting social workers to submit abstracts/expressions of interest in presenting a paper and/or poster at the conference. Conference papers must relate to the broad themes of relationship-based practice and reflective practice while the poster presentations can be on any theme related to social work. You can submit abstracts for both oral and poster presentation. Please don't hesitate to email with any queries.

You can submit for both oral and poster presentation.

Selection and Notification

Acceptance of submissions will be notified by email. This notice will be sent to the lead author.

Conference Registration

At least one author of accepted presentations must register for the conference. Presenters are responsible for expenses such as travel, registration fees.