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Fri 19 Apr

Safeguarding in Adult Mental Health – Building Blocks towards Best Practice

9.30 am registration, Event 10.00am - 3.45pm

Carmelite Community Centre, 56 Aungier Street, Dublin 2

€30 IASW members/€100 non-members

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Event fee includes lunch and refreshments.

Safeguarding has always been an important piece of work in Adult Mental Health Services. 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 recent changes in the legislative and policy landscape, including the Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act 2015, the National Consent Policy and the NIRP Report on “Emily”, only amplifies the relevance and pertinence of Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults. If Social Workers have traditionally been seen as the “Experts” in this field, how do we further this work, both individually and collectively, in line with best practice? And how do we do this in the absence of any specific policy guidelines for Mental Health Services? This full day event will explore the challenges and opportunities for Social Workers in this area and enhance the understanding of Safeguarding within Adult Mental Health and the role of Social Work.



9.30 – 10am: Registration, Tea & Coffee

10.00 – 10.05am: Kerry Cuskelly, Principal Social Worker & SWAMH Chair (Welcome)

10.05 – 10.45am: Jackie McIlroy, Adult Safeguarding Review & former Deputy Chief Social Worker, Northern Ireland (Safeguarding in a National Context)

10.45 – 11.30am: Marcella Leonard, Director of Leonard Consultancy (Safeguarding Sexual Behaviour)

11.30 – 11.45am: Tea/Coffee

11.45 – 12.30pm: Workshops

  • Workshop 1: Bernadette Casey, National Safeguarding Manager SVP (Safeguarding with Homeless and Migrant Populations)
  • Workshop 2: Colette Leigh, Social Work Team Leader and Joan Dunne, Social Worker, Kildare West Wicklow MHS (Safeguarding within the Approved Centre)


12.30 – 1.00pm: Lunch


1.00 – 1.30pm: SWAMH AGM


1.30 – 2.15pm: Vicky Soutar, Lecturer in Social Work, University of Stirling, Scotland (Safeguarding in Mental Health, drawing on Research and the Scottish Experience)

2.15 – 3.00pm: Dr Carmel Halton, Retired Senior Lecturer in Social Work, UCC, currently engaged in educational research and supervision (Reflective Practice and Positive Risk Taking in Social Work)

3.00 – 3.30pm: Panel Q&A

3.30 – 3.45pm: Position Paper Launch & Event Close






Bernadette Casey

Bernadette Casey, Social Worker, Dublin, Ireland, is currently National  Safeguarding Manager with SVP. She is a NSAC member with Safeguarding Ireland. Bernadette volunteers as a safeguarding advisor, and provides clinical supervision for various agencies operating nationally and internationally, including safeguarding practitioners operating in conflict and emergency crises contexts. She has held lead social work and safeguarding positions across various sectors including a Global Lead Safeguarding role for a large Irish INGO operating across 30 countries. Bernadette is an internationally trauma informed trained investigator into sexual harm. She is a trainer and lecturer, life coach and clinical supervisor, CORU registered and IASW member since 1997.


Joan Dunne

Joan Dunne graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2012 with a Master’s degree in Social Work. Prior to becoming a social worker, Joan worked in both Dublin Simon Community and De Paul trust homeless services from 2008-2013. Joan started her social work career in Tusla in 2013 and went on to work in Children’s disability, on an early intervention team and Primary Care. She joined the Kildare West Wicklow mental health service in January 2023. As a social worker in adult mental health, Joan completed a micro-credential course in Trinity in 2023 on Safeguarding Adults at risk of Abuse. A central part of her role in mental health is responding to safeguarding issues in the approved centre and working within the service’s Safeguarding Policy and procedures.


Dr Carmel Halton

Dr Carmel Halton was social work educator, academic and researcher  for over 35years. She retired from full time academia in 2019/2020.  Currently , she is a research supervisor with UCC and continues to research and publish with a group of international colleagues [InCinq].  Throughout her career she has been committed to  promoting reflective inquiry. Carmel has published and presented her research at national and international conferences. She believes that reflective inquiry  is central to maintaining competent and engaged professional practitioners and to promoting and sustaining ethically informed professional practice. She has engaged with colleagues nationally and internationally, across a range of disciplines, in researching the transfer and sustainability of  reflective inquiry across diverse  practice domains. 

Contact details Email:


Colette Leigh

Colette Leigh graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2006 with a Masters degree in Social Work.  Colette went on to work as an adult mental health social worker in 2008 in the Kildare West Wicklow mental health service, becoming a social work team leader in 2020.  Prior to becoming a social worker, Colette worked with the ISPCC as a Child Line coordinator and with the Royal College of Surgeons as a research assistant.  In 2022, she worked as social work team leader with KARE – a service for adults with intellectual disabilities where safeguarding accounted for a significant component of the work with service users, staff and family members.  In early 2023, Colette returned to work as a social work team leader within the Psychiatry of Later Life team covering Kildare West Wicklow mental health service.  A focus of her role has been on the development of a Safeguarding Policy and Procedures  (2023) specific to the Kildare West Wicklow Adult Mental Health Service and the 29 bed Approved Centre.  Colette currently provides Safeguarding training around the Kildare West Wicklow Local Safeguarding Policy to staff within the service.


Marcella Leonard MBE

Marcella is Director of Leonard Consultancy and qualified as a social worker in 1989. Marcella has specialised in assessment and therapy in the fields of sexuality, sexual deviancy and trauma with both victims and perpetrators. Marcella co-ordinated the management of sex and violent offenders in Northern Ireland and has worked with several jurisdictions to establish their statutory management of sex and domestic / violent offenders. She delivers specialist safeguarding training to sports, criminal justice, religious, educational, social care, voluntary and statutory organisations which includes assessing and managing sexual and violent risk, consultancy, strategic and safeguarding policy development. She undertakes Sports and Statutory Case Management Reviews for organisations, training safeguarding officers and assisting organisations strategically and operationally to have robust safeguarding for children and adults at risk. Marcella’s practice, as a therapist with victims and survivors, is grounded in a trauma informed humanistic approach which is also embedded in her training and consultancy work.

Marcella has written several book chapters and co-authored articles in relevant professional journals and regularly provides expert opinion to media outlets as well as expert advisor to several documentaries for television productions. She is co-author of the AIM3 Adolescent Model of Assessment with Professor Simon Hackett and the CASP-R Ability to Protect and Supervise – Risk assessment model with Gareth Mc Gibbon.

Marcella is currently a panel member of the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse redress scheme assisting in the analysis of the harm caused to people when they were children whilst resident in child care and criminal justice institutions.


Jackie McIlroy

Jackie has worked in social care services in Northern Ireland for almost 40 years and has been a professionally qualified social worker since 1990. For most of her career she has worked in adult services within the statutory sector in the Belfast area.  In 1998 Jackie was seconded to work with local communities in North and West Belfast on the issue of suicide prevention and in 2003, she won the NI Healthcare awards for leading on the development of a cinema and television health education campaign aimed at promoting young men’s mental wellbeing. From 2004 to 2013, Jackie held various managerial roles within the Belfast Trust and was the Adult Safeguarding Lead for mental health services obtaining considerable experience of adult safeguarding practice both as a practitioner and as a manager.

 In 2013, Jackie joined the Department of Health NI as a social work professional officer for mental health and intellectual disability and contributed to the development of current policy and practice in adult safeguarding. In 2016 she was appointed as the Deputy Chief Social Worker for Northern Ireland and her directorate had responsibility for providing professional advice and assistance in the formulation of policy, preparation of legislation and leading on professional practice matters, including advising on safeguarding concerns. Jackie also led on the Reform of Adult Social Care within the Department of Health.  She retired from the Department in March 2023.

In July 2023, Jackie was commissioned to provide professional advice to the CEO of the HSE in respect of what has become known as “Emily”  and to conduct a high level review of policies, procedures and structures for adult safeguarding across health and social care services in Ireland.


Vicky Soutar

Vicky is a Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Stirling and currently teaches across Adult Support and Protection and Leadership pathways for qualified professionals. Vicky has worked in adult services in Scotland since 1996, and for most of that time as a Mental Health Officer, with a later period as an Adult Support and Protection Lead. She previously led on the MHO Postgraduate Award at the University of Edinburgh, and continues to sit on the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland as well as undertaking some MHO locum work. Her interests are in specialist mental health practice, human rights and safeguarding, and compassionate practice.