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Thu 16 Mar

Institutional Abuse - Speaking Up, Speaking Out!

9.00 am registration, Conference 10.00am - 4.15pm

Dunamaise Arts Centre, Church Street, Portlaoise, Co. Laois

€30 IASW members/€30 non-members

Online booking is now closed. If you would like to attend on the day it is possible to pay by cash at that time.



Parking nearest the venue is the multistory on Church street, only one minute walk away. The Midlands Park Hotel and the Odeon Cinema are the entrance landmarks to the carpark.


This full day conference is a collaboration between social workers from the Adult Safeguarding and Protection Associate Group of the IASW and the National Safeguarding Office, HSE. Social work is the named lead registered profession for adult safeguarding in Ireland, tasked with the primary implementation of policies that support adults at risk of abuse, neglect, and extreme self-neglect. The conference takes a solution focused approach to responses to adult abuse and neglect in institutions and will provide opportunities to learn from the experiences and knowledge of Irish social workers as well as social workers from other jurisdictions. This in person event will facilitate social workers to share their expertise in order to further develop and strengthen social work practices and those services provided to support and safeguard adults.


A light lunch is included. Please email if you have any dietary requirements by Friday, 10th March. 




9am                 Registration, tea & coffee

10am               Welcome (Jacinta Barrett, IASW)

10.10am          The Safeguarding Policy and Practice Journey- A Place for Critical Friends

                          & Curious Minds (Tim Hanly, NSO HSE)

10.40am          The Right to Protection (Deborah Hanlon, Southern Trust, NI)

11.10am          Learning from England

                          (Margaret Flynn, National Independent Safeguarding Board, Wales)

11.40am          Tea/Coffee Break

12pm               Reckoning with Culture, Denial, Silence and Complicity (Anne O’Loughlin, Social Worker)

12.30pm         Panel discussion/Q&A

1pm                 Lunch

2pm                 Title tbc (Siobhan Nunn, HIQA)

2.40pm            Role of the Confidential Recipient

                         (Grainne Cunningham-O'Brien, National Confidential Recipient, HSE)

3.10pm            Speaking up in Practice - Hearing the Voice of the Service User (Sarah Mahon, NSO HSE)

3.40pm            Panel Discussion/Q&A

4.15pm            Closing Remarks (Jacinta Barrett, IASW)





Ms Gráinne Cunningham-O’Brien, National Confidential Recipient

Gráinne is a graduate of University of Galway. She brings to the role many years of professional social work experience in a number of different practice areas including child protection and fostering, safeguarding and protection of vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, adult mental health and intellectual disability service. In addition, Gráinne has social work managerial experience in primary care, palliative care, older persons’ services, children’s disability services, and acute clinical social work.


Margaret Flynn, Flynn and Eley Associates

Margaret is Chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum in England and Wales and the commissioning editor of the Journal of Adult Protection. She has undertaken a number of high-profile Safeguarding Adult Reviews. She is a Trustee of Anheddau and a director of All Wales People First. She was the first Chair of Wales’ National Independent Safeguarding Board.


Tim Hanly, General Manager, National Safeguarding Office

Tim studied as a Social Science undergraduate at UCC and qualified as a social worker from the University of Warwick in 1991. He completed an MA at Warwick with a dissertation on the self- organisation of people with Disabilities. Tim worked as a social worker in Glasgow between 1991 and 1995 as part of a Community Care Team. Since returning to Ireland in 1995 Tim has occupied various management positions within Child Care services in both the North East and Mid-West Areas. Tim has a particular interest in the foster care and after care provision and would have played a key role in developing practice and policy within the HSE and TUSLA in these areas.

Tim commenced as Principal Social Worker in HSE National Safeguarding Office in September 2015 and is currently General Manager of the Office. He played a key role in supporting the implementation of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse policy. He is currently undertaking a MSc on Quality and Safety in Health Care Management with RCSI and is undertaking an Organisational development dissertation on the use of Making Safeguarding Personal toolkit resources.


Mrs Deborah Hanlon has worked in Southern Health and Social Care Trust as the Head of Service for Adult Safeguarding since 2016. Within this role she has responsibility for strategic development, quality and service improvement, governance and has oversight responsibility for operational delivery of adult safeguarding services within the Trust. She also contributes to the strategic developments of adult safeguarding and adult protection within Northern Ireland.

Mrs Hanlon graduated in 1995 with a BSC Hons Social Work from the Ulster University and over her career has worked as a practitioner in Child Protection in Dublin, Ireland, in Hospital social work, disability services and in older people’s community services. Her management career began in 2006 in older people’s community services and it was within this area that her interest in adult safeguarding began. Over the last 15 years she has worked in senior practitioner and at senior management levels within Adult Safeguarding services.

Mrs Hanlon has a keen interest in user engagement and quality improvement in adult protection. Providing an excellent and compassionate response to adults who are in need of support and protection is a priority for her team who are currently working together with service users, carers and families in a quality improvement project to “do safeguarding differently” using a trauma informed and outcomes based recovery approach. 


Sarah Mahon is a social worker with a background in social work for older people and social work for people with disabilities.  Sarah has worked for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland as a dementia case manager, The Dementia Service, Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) in St James Hospital, Brú Chaoimhín Community Nursing Unit, the HSE Elder Abuse Service, the Rehab Group and Stewarts Hospital.  She is currently working as a Principal Social Worker in the HSE National Safeguarding Office.


Siobhán Nunn, Regional Manager for HIQA

Siobhán qualified as a Social Worker in 1991 having studied in UCD and Goldsmiths College University of London.

Siobhan worked as a social worker and manager in the London Borough of Ealing and Somerset Social Services between 1991 and 2006, where she gained experience in Child Protection, Respite Care for Children with Disabilities, Adult Disability, Older People and Mental Health, and Adult Protection services. In 1998 Siobhan obtained an MSc in Transformational Management at Buckingham University.

On returning to Ireland she worked in IT Carlow as Head of Student Services before moving to St. James’s as the Head Medical Social Worker in 2010.

In 2015 Siobhan joined the HSE and managed the Safeguarding and Protection team in CHO7. During this time she represented the Safeguarding and Protection Principal social workers on the National Safeguarding Committee.

Siobhán has been a Regional Manager in HIQA since 2022 where she is engaged in the regulation of designated centres for older people in the Dublin area.


Dr. Anne O’Loughlin is a retired social worker, whose career spanning forty years, specialised in medical social work with older people. Anne’s work of advocacy for public and professional awareness of elder abuse from the mid 1980’s, culminated in co- authorship with Dr. Joseph Duggan of a seminal report Abuse, Neglect and Mistreatment of Older People: An Exploratory Study (1998). This report advocated for the establishment of a Working Party on Elder Abuse at the Department of Health. This was established in 1999 and led to subsequent report Protecting Our Future (WGEA 2002) and policy development on elder abuse in Ireland (HSE 2007), which was later incorporated into the Health Service Executive Policy Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse (HSE 2014). Anne was awarded a Masters of Social Science (Social Work) from UCD in 1996 for her research Elder Abuse: A New Reality About Old Age in Ireland? and a PhD from UCD in 2013 for her research Witnessing Elder Mistreatment in Nursing Homes: Social influences on non-reporting by staff who witness elder mistreatment perpetrated by colleagues. Anne continues to contribute and learn through involvement in the Irish Association of Social Workers.

Anne's presentation will emphasise the challenge of taking into account the superordinate power of organisational culture to mould and shape behaviour and actions of people working in health and social care services; the strategies of denial and what we do with our knowledge of the suffering of others; the complex dynamics of keeping quiet; and the need to understand the ways in which we may be complicit in wrongdoing.