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Wed 11 Oct

Social Workers in Disability Conference - The Community of Caring: The Carer, The Social Worker and the Self

9.15am Registration, Conference10.00am -3.45pm

Midlands Park Hotel, Jessop St, Maryborough, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, R32 KV20

€40 IASW members/€100 non-members

Some Resources Following the Event

Understanding Carer Harm Research Report 

Carer Harm - Generic Information Leaflet 

Carer Harm - Autism Specific Leaflet 

Carer Harm - Dementia Specific Leaflet 

Carer Harm - Best Practice Considerations for Professionals 


Event fee includes lunch and refreshments. If you have any dietary requirements, please email with details on or before Friday, 6th October. 

The Irish Association of Social Workers have fully subsidised a number of places at the event for our student members. The conference programme will be of interest to students on placement across a range of services including disability, Tusla, medical social work and primary care. All IASW student members are welcome.

To avail of a place, email your name, IASW membership number and email address used for IASW membership to on or before Monday, 9th October.

If you have a student on placement who is not currently an IASW member, you might like to gift them a membership (€30). See information on membership at 

The Social Workers in Disability Special Interest Group are holding their annual conference focusing on the social work role in supporting the caring relationship. It will seek to consider the role social workers play in supporting carers in both children and adult services. This conference seeks to peel back the layers of supporting, to examine the needs of carers, what social workers bring to this work and how we can also be mindful of the impact this has on our personal self.

This conference will provide social workers with the opportunity to have a systemic view of the caring relationship; the impact on the carers themselves but also to recognize the unique relationship social workers have with the families and individuals we support. A crucial part of this is also the use of self in this process and how we can be mindful of maintaining our own resilience. There will be opportunities for workshops specific to children and adult services such as grief and loss for families and assisted decision making with adults.

As this is the first SWID in-person event in many years, we hope it will be an opportunity to meet colleagues, share experiences, make new connections and take some time away from the workplace to re-engage with the core skills and values of our profession.

Conference Programme 

9.30am Registration (Tea and Coffee)

10.00am Opening Address and Welcome 

10.15-11.00am Dr. Sarah Donnelly 'Understanding Carer Harm - Implications for Policy and Practice' (Virtual Address)

Followed by Q &A

Dr Sarah Donnelly is an Assistant Professor of Social Work and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, University College Dublin. Sarah has acted as co-convenor of the European Network for Gerontological Social Work 2018-2023 and is an Academic Advisor on adult safeguarding to the Irish Association of Social Workers. Sarah is a member of the editorial board for the European Social Work Research Journal and has recently co-edited ‘Critical Gerontology for Social Workers’ Book (2022, Policy Press). Sarah has published widely on ageing, dementia, capacity and decision-making, and adult safeguarding.  Sarah has been involved in international projects focused on older people and care robots as well as participatory approaches in social work. Sarah is currently involved in two HRB national projects. The first is focused on the implementation of interprofessional competencies for Integrated Care Teams for Older People in Ireland. The second project is focused on the rehabilitation needs of people diagnosed with a brain tumour in Ireland.

11.10am Tea/ Coffee Break 

11.30-12.15pm Dr. Erna O’Connor - The Social Work Contribution in Inter-Professional Practice: Re-viewing the Social Work Skillset 

Followed by Q &A 

Dr Erna O’Connor is Assistant Professor of Social Work, Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning and Practice Education Coordinator at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, Dublin. She is a CORU registered social worker. Prior to joining the university Erna worked as a social worker in drug treatment and HIV services and a senior social worker in hospital-based social work specialising in age-related healthcare and emergency department social work practice. Her teaching and research interests include relationship-based social work, reflective practice, bereavement and trauma and practice teaching and learning. 

12.30pm Caring for the Social Worker- Reflection on the social work role on the self 

Presented by Anne O’Loughlin with video from Margaret Gilbert Life and Parent Coach. 

1.00-2.00pm Social Lunch

2.00-3.00pm Breakout rooms: 

Choose one at registration 

1. "Hidden loss in Parent Carers: Enhancing Social Workers' Knowledge and Skills through an Online Experiential Workshop”

Elaine Brennan, PhD will share her learning and findings from her research. 

Elaine Brennan is the inaugural recipient of the Mc Kenna Scholarship from LauraLynn Ireland’s Children’s Hospice and is currently a second year PhD candidate at the School of Psychology in University College Dublin. She has worked as a Principal Social Worker within a disability service for over twenty years, where her interest in supporting parental adjustment and resilience led her to complete a MSc in Loss and Bereavement in 2021 with the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Her action research project explored the way social worker’s addressed issues of grief and loss with parents, in the context of an experience that often goes unrecognised within families and is hidden from public view. Elaine’s current PhD research is examining whether HCP’s discussion of grief and loss supports parents of children with life-limiting neurodevelopmental disabilities to engage in future care planning. 

2. Carers’ perspectives on supporting the decision-making of adults with intellectual disabilities in the current Irish context

Dr Laura Coffey is a Lecturer/Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Maynooth University and a member of the University’s Assisting Living and Learning (ALL) Institute. Her research focuses on exploring the views and experiences of people living with long-term illness and/or disability, as well as those who care for them, and finding ways to promote their autonomy, wellbeing and inclusion. A graduate of University College Dublin (BA Psychology), the National University of Ireland, Galway (MPsychSc Health Psychology), and Dublin City University (PhD), her research has received funding from a range of sources including the Irish Research Council, Irish Cancer Society and Health Research Board.

Ms Hannah Casey is a final year PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, Maynooth University. Her PhD research, for which she was awarded a John and Pat Hume Scholarship, explores the experiences and perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities and their professional and family carers regarding assisted decision-making (ADM) in everyday life. She holds a BSc in Psychology from Maynooth University where she completed her final year project focusing on family carers’ experiences of providing support in decision-making in light of the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act (2015). Hannah is also a member of the ALL Institute and sits on the editorial board of its blog, Ideas in ALL. She is currently finishing up the write-up of her PhD which will provide recommendations for the creation of a guide to assist people with intellectual disabilities and their carers with the execution and provision of ADM in daily life.  

3.00pm Strengthening the Voice of SWID

Reflect on how our collective voice can contribute to raising practice issues.

This will be facilitated via AhaSlides to engage with the audience on how SWID Special Interest Group can meet the needs of social workers in disability. 

3.35pm Closing Remarks 

3.45pm END.