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Fri 21 Oct

IASW National Social Work Conference - Accelerating Inequalities, Impossible Choices: Exploring Anti-Poverty Practice in Social Work

9.00 am registration, Conference 10.00am - 4.15pm

Ashling Hotel, Parkgate Street, Dublin 8

€40 IASW members/€100 non-members


The conference fee includes lunch. Please let us know of any dietary requirements by emailing by Thursday, 13th October.


As a profession that works across health, mental health, social care, child protection, criminal justice, local government sectors and across civil society as a whole, we witness every day the impact of policy and legislative decisions on the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and excluded. Without access to the most basic supports and services, many are denied the right to fully participate in society and to enjoy the protection and vindication of their human rights. Macro issues such as rapidly increasing energy prices, food insecurity, the climate crisis and the dearth of affordable, secure housing further exacerbate these inequalities and push families, communities and individuals into poverty and exclusion.  

The conference is an opportunity for the profession to take a pause to consider how best to respond to the inequality we witness every day, to speak up for social justice, and to identify and demand the resources to make that change happen. Questions for consideration include:

  • What is required of the profession now and in the near future? What do we need to do?
  • What do we need to know to do this work?
  • What is our unique perspective on these issues and how best to respond?
  • Where does the profession need focus its energy? Its resources?
  • How does social work contribute to sustaining and reinforcing inequalities and what is our role in addressing and challenging inequalities?

We hope that you can join us on the day to take part in shaping the thinking and response of the profession as we consider how best to refocus our energies, individually and collectively.  

The mission of the IASW, as the representative body of social work in Ireland, is to advance the interests of our members, the profession and service users; working with our members and partner bodies for enhanced wellbeing, human rights, social justice, and equality for all.



Niamh O’Rourke (BA/MSW) will chair the conference. Niamh holds a Master in Social Work from University of Dublin, Trinity College. She has strong interest in engaging marginalised groups and removing barriers to their engagement in health and mental health services.  Niamh was the first Acute hospital-based Inclusion Health Social Worker and alongside colleagues grew the service to a model of care which is internationally recognised.  Niamh has experience of working in voluntary and statutory child welfare/protection, adult and paediatric medical settings and has recently moved to be a Senior Clinician at Jigsaw, National Centre for Youth Mental Health.   





9.00       Registration, tea & coffee

10.00     Welcome from Vivian Geiran, Chairman, IASW

10.10     ATD Ireland Community Activists

11.10     Uncovering Food Poverty in Ireland (Michael Drew)

11.40     tea/coffee/chats

12.00     Inclusion Health Medical Social Work

12.40     Q&A with Panel Discussion

1.00       Lunch

2.15       Narratives Beyond Quantification: Lived Experiences of Poverty and Welfare Recipiency (Joe Whelan)

2.45       Working Together to Deliver Change (Andy McClenaghan)

3.15       Understanding and Addressing the Structural Causes of Poverty (Paul Ginnell)

3.45       Q&A with Panel Discussion

4.15       Close of 2022 Conference



Speaker Biographies

ATD Ireland will facilitate a session on Poverty Aware Practice: Learning together from lived experience of poverty and socio-economic discrimination. The session is based on the Hidden Dimensions of Poverty international research and is led by ATD community activists with lived experience of poverty and socio- economic discrimination. The aim of this session will be to provide a more dynamic and holistic understanding of the lives and daily experiences of those who are experiencing poverty, based on the idea that those with a lived experience of poverty are its true experts.    

Michael Drew holds a PhD from the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice at University College Dublin, and has researched food poverty in Ireland over a five-year period. He has first-hand experience of the topic, having volunteered for many years with the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Laura Feely is a Senior Medical Social Worker in the Rotunda Hospital. As Inclusion Health Medical Social Worker, Laura has a keen interest in identifying and responding to the social detriments of health such as homelessness and social exclusion which affect women and children's lives. Laura is a graduate of University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Social Science Degree and Masters Degree in Social Work. She also has previous experience in working in TUSLA Child and Family Agency.

Paul Ginnell has been the Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland since 2018 and prior to that was the Network’s Policy Officer for over ten years. Paul is a member of EAPN Europe’s policy working group, the Government’s Roadmap for Social Inclusion Steering Group and also a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s Future of Equality Legislation Advisory Group. Paul coordinates the Community Platform, a network of 31 national organisations, and is a qualified Community Worker with a Masters in Applied Social Studies.

Rachael Kelly is a Senior Medical Social Worker with over five years experience in medical social work. Rachael is currently working on the Inclusion Health Team in the Mater University Hospital. Rachael has a keen interest in working with people who are marginalised and promoting access to mainstream health and social services through collaborative interagency working. She is committed to promoting service user involvement in the development of the Inclusion Health Team and her own practice.

Andy McClenaghan joined the British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) in 2016. He is responsible for managing BASW NI’s Public Affairs, Policy and Communications functions. He works with members of the Stormont Assembly and policy makers to positively influence the development of the social work profession, representing the interests of social workers and the individuals and families who use social work services. Andy also leads BASW NI’s anti-poverty campaigns, playing a key role in the Northern Ireland Cliff Edge Coalition which successfully lobbied for the extension of the NI welfare reform mitigations which were introduced in 2016 in response to the Westminster Government’s austerity agenda. In addition to his work with BASW NI, Andy hosts and produces the BASW UK podcast, Let’s Talk Social Work. Prior to joining BASW NI Andy worked in policy and research roles in the public, local government and private sectors.  

Gretchen McGuirk (BSS/NQSW) studied a Bachelor Degree in Social Work at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 2015 and subsequently joined the Coombe Hospital as a Medical Social Worker in 2015. Gretchen has worked across various specialities, beginning with the bereavement & foetal medicine team, domestic violence and most recently, inclusion health. She has always had a keen interest in social inclusion, social justice and equality and, as the first Social Inclusion Medical Social Worker in the Coombe Hospital, Gretchen established and developed a more inclusive, wrap-around model of care to support vulnerable women, children and families. It is Gretchen’s hope that the service will grow and develop further as the inclusion health model of care becomes more established within maternity services across Ireland. Gretchen believes that it is a privilege to support women and their families, and to play an active role in improving their quality of life, and ability to thrive, feel happy and safe, and give them the best start possible.

Sinéad Stakelum (BSocSc., MSW) is a Senior Medical Social Worker currently providing an Inclusion Health service in the National Maternity Hospital. Sinéad has been working in maternity services for seven years and has a particular interest in removing barriers to antenatal care for marginalised women, period poverty and substance use in pregnancy.

Dr Joe Whelan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity College, the University of Dublin. Joe is an active social researcher with a track record of publishing in international, peer-reviewed, scholarly journals. Joe's main area of research interest focuses on exploring the nexus of work and welfare. He is particularly interested in exploring and understanding lived experiences in the context of welfare recipiency, focusing on the processes and effects of welfare conditionality. Joe has recently published two monographs. The first of these explores the concept of social deservingness from antiquity to the present day and the second offers an insight into lived experiences in the context of the Irish welfare state and is published by Policy Press. Joe is a member of the Editorial Collective for the distinguished scholarly journal, Critical Social Policy and is the chairperson of the Sociological Association of Ireland's Work, Welfare and Markets study group.