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Fri 25 Nov

'There's No Place Like Home' - SWAMH - Mental Health Social Work and Housing in Ireland

9.30am - 3.30pm

Carmelite Community Centre, 56 Aungier Street, Dublin 2, Ground Floor

€10 IASW members/€40 non-members

Social Workers in Adult Mental Health will host their annual conference in Dublin on Friday, 25th November.  

Online booking will close on Thursday, 24th at lunchtime. Please note that we can accept cash only if you would like to pay on the day. 

Conference Programme

09.30am - 09.55am: Registration, Morning Coffee

09.55am - 10am: Welcome

10am - 11am: Rory Hearne, Assistant Professor of Social Policy in Maynooth University

11.00am - 11.30am: Claire Feeney, Housing Agency – National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027

11.30am - 11.50am: Tea and Coffee

11.50am - 12.05pm: Haley Curran Role of Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland

12.05pm - 12.25pm: Gerrita Russell, Principal Social Worker, A Social Work Practice Perspective
on addressing Homelessness for Mental Health Service Users

12.25pm - 12.45pm: John Cowman, ‘Pre-and Post admission accommodation types for inpatients with housing needs on the acute unit’ – Study Findings

12.45pm - 12.55pm: Q + A

12.55pm - 1. 55pm: LUNCH

2pm - 2. 20pm: Aoife Kelly-Desmond, Mercy Law Centre

2.20pm - 2.40pm: Michael Hennessy, The role of the Housing Coordinator

2.40pm - 3pm: Lorraine Kelly, Housing Needs Record

3pm - 3.10pm: Q + A

3.10pm - 3.25pm: SWAMH present Survey findings and launch of SWAMH housing position paper

3.30pm: Close

Speaker Biographies

Rory Hearne, Assistant Professor of Social Policy in Maynooth University

Rory Hearne is an Assistant Professor of Social Policy in Maynooth University, specialising in housing policy and housing rights. He makes regular appearances on national TV and radio as an expert on Ireland’s housing policy, including Prime Time, The Brendan O’Connor Show and The Blindboy Podcast. He has written articles for The Irish Examiner, and The Irish Times. He is the author of Gaffs: Why No One Can Get a House, and What We Can Do About It (2022), Housing Shock: The Irish Housing Crisis and How to Solve It (2020) and Public Private Partnerships in Ireland (2011). Rory completed his PhD in Trinity College in 2009, and subsequently worked in social housing regeneration, as policy analyst in economic inequality, and researcher in social policy, before joining Maynooth University. Rory is also host of the current affairs podcast ‘of hope’, Reboot Republic.

Claire Feeney, Director for Services, The Housing Agency

Claire is the Director for Services and Inclusion in The Housing Agency. Claire joined Dublin City Council in the late 80’s. She spent time on secondment to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government as a Project Manager for the computerisation of Motor Tax and Motor Tax Online and the Limerick Regeneration Agencies working in Moyross, Southill in 2007, and the other regeneration areas as the Project Manager for the Physical and Economic Regeneration. She was part of the Housing Department of DCC with responsible for a number of the Regeneration Projects in Dublin.

In 2012 Claire moved to the Housing Agency to manage the Mortgage to Rent Scheme nationally and drive the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022 – 2027.

Her Directorate now consists of Local Authority Services, the National Housing First Office and AHB Services all who act as centres of excellence in their given areas. They also develop policies with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and provide advice and support to their stakeholders including local authorities and approved housing bodies.

Haley Curran, Policy & Research Coordinator, Tuath Housing Association

Haley Curran is the Policy & Research Coordinator with Tuath Housing Association. Before this she was the Research Officer with Focus Ireland, a housing and homelessness NGO. She also has experience as a Supported Housing Officer for homeless and marginalized young people. Haley’s areas of research include housing, homelessness, children’s rights, housing affordability and supply and the experiences of people in precarious housing. Haley is passionate about bringing forth the voices of those with lived experiences of homelessness and housing precarity.

Gerrita Russell, Principal Social Worker, Kildare West Wicklow Adult Mental Health Service

Gerrita Russell is a Principal Social Worker in the Kildare West Wicklow Adult Mental Health Service since 2020. She has worked in the area of Adult Mental health since 2010 beginning her career on the Community Mental Health Team in Portlaoise and moving to the Rehabilitation Team in the Kildare West Wicklow in 2015. Gerrita’s areas of interest include Homelessness, Community Development and Complex Discharge Planning both from acute and rehabilitation settings including the Specialist Rehabilitation Services.  Gerrita continues to immerse herself in clinical work alongside her management duties and very much enjoys the challenges and opportunities her role provides.

John Cowman, Senior Mental Health Social Worker, Housing Coordinator

John is a senior mental health social worker and leads an innovative, recovery focused housing support service called Creating Foundations, which he developed in 2013, in partnership with Focus Ireland. Since 2018 he is a Housing Coordinator in Mental Health, in CHO7. He is also a part-time PhD student in Queen's University Belfast.

Aoife Kelly-Desmond, Managing Solicitor at Mercy Law Resource Centre

Aoife Kelly-Desmond is Managing Solicitor at Mercy Law Resource Centre, a registered charity and independent law centre providing free legal advice and representation to people at risk of homelessness.   Previously, Aoife was a solicitor in A&L Goodbody and Matheson where she advised commercial entities and public bodies on investigations, regulatory matters and complex litigation and disputes.   Aoife is Vice-Chair of the Board of Plan International Ireland, an international charity that aims to advance children’s rights and promote equality for girls.  She is a member of the Law Society of Ireland, a graduate of University College Cork and has completed post-graduate programmes in law and business disciplines with Queen Mary University of London, DeMontfort University of Leicester and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Michael Hennessy, Housing Coordinator, Mental Health Services, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare.

Michael is working in the area of housing and homelessness since 2005. Previous to his current role he has worked in the voluntary sector with Threshold, Dublin Simon Community and Cork Simon Community. Michael has worked in a variety of roles that have involved direct service provision, policy development and interagency working. 

Lorraine Kelly, Senior Mental Health Social Worker, Housing Coordinator, Mental Health Services, Galway, Mayo Roscommon Region

Lorraine Kelly is a Senior Mental Health Social Worker with over 17 years’ experience in Mental Health. Lorraine’s current role is Housing Coordinator in Mental Health for the Galway, Mayo Roscommon Region. In 2019 Lorraine successfully applied for funding from the Slaintecare Integration Fund for a Mental Health Service led pilot partnership project with Galway Simon Community and Galway and Roscommon Local Authorities called the My Home Project. The project was evaluated in April 2021 and the programme now receives mainstream funding. Further information is available at

Linda Curran, Social Work Team Leader

Linda is a social work team leader in adult mental health services. Linda has over 14 years’ experience working within mental health services, homeless and addiction services and with sex worker outreach programmes. She has a particular interest in housing, addiction and dual diagnosis, family and systemic focused interventions and the role of clinical supervision. Linda holds a MSc in Healthcare Management from RCSI, as part of which she implemented a structured family support programme for families of service users diagnosed with borderline personality disorder within a psychiatric hospital.  Linda also holds a MSW (Masters of Social Work); a Post-Graduate Diploma in Clinical Supervision and a Bachelor of Sociology and Social Policy from Trinity College Dublin. Linda serves on the board of the Mental Health Commission. She has also served as the chair of SWAMH (Social Workers in Adult Mental Health).