Sunday, August 20, 2017

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Robert Nesirky reflects on a last injustice for the institutionalised whom Ireland failed.

Opening a folder can be an intensely intimate affair, as those in the social care field will understand. When reading a personal file, a life is seen lying between the hole-punched pages and printed lines of psychologist reports and care plans. In broad strokes, someone has created an image of a person within those documents.

Broad strokes – the most apt description of these files, as there is always more to a person than can possibly be documented.

Yet for some, these documents are all that remain. For thousands of individuals, there are now, lying dusty and forgotten, files which are the summation of their horrific experience in Irish social care institutions of recent history. Due to the isolated nature of their lives within these institutions, they were often not afforded the opportunity to leave their mark on the world. Their lives were tales of dehumanisation, which are now contained within these files as the only record of both their existence and Irish society failing them.

‘Time to Move On from Congregated Settings’ – published in June 2011, this national policy document spelled the end for Irish social care within a congregated setting. While welcomed, a consequence of these institutions reshaping and renovating will be the inevitable unearthing, and likely discarding, of these personal and historical documents.

Too often, Ireland has swept its darker moments under the carpet; this is an opportunity to pay respects to those who suffered at the state’s and state-sponsored institutions’ hands. The state, social care professionals and residents of this country must act fast to preserve these documents.

A national archive of recovered records would serve multiple purposes.

It would mean access to the reality of lives within these institutions. This would act as a barrier to prevent our standards from relapsing, removing the ability for rose-tinted nostalgia to tempt institutional congregated care back into our psyche as an acceptable form of care.

Having an archive will also help Ireland to let it sink in that these are the tragedies and stories of Irish people from not too long ago. Many readers may be related to someone who lived and died within an institution. With an accessible archive, it will be possible to identify relatives and to humanise the victims.

There are no confidentiality issues; the people within these files are long dead – let’s ensure their stories live on in some form. It is now our responsibility to implement a program which prevents these records being left in a landfill and to instead ensure they are treated appropriately and respectfully.

Time is sensitive, stakeholders need to be gathered and the department needs to be lobbied before documents are carelessly discarded.

These files hold the stories of our past and our mistakes. They are also powerful tools. As social care standards progress, they could act as a reminder of what happens when regulation is replaced with faith, religious or blind, in institutions.

Or, they could lie in a landfill, these victims finding themselves discarded once more.

Author Bio

Robert Nesirky.

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Susanna Abse and Dr Maeve Hurley
Susanna Abse (left), consultant psychotherapist, and Dr Maeve Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Ag Eisteacht, seen here at the launch of Ag Eisteacht’s ABLE training programme (Adopt a relational approach, Build, Listen and Empower),an accredited, evidenced-based training programme designed to help frontline workers understand the impact relationships have on every aspect of a person’s life.

Ag Eisteacht, a Cork-based charity, has launched ABLE, a nationwide, relational-based training programme to support frontline practitioners working in services such as the health, education, probation, youth, child & family, disability and homeless services.

The launch took place on Friday 12th May 2017 at The Nano Nagle Place in Cork.

ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build, Listen and Empower), is an accredited, evidenced-based training programme designed to help frontline workers understand the impact relationships have on every aspect of a person’s life.

It aims to give practitioners the skills to respond effectively and engage with the people who turn to them for help, often in times of relationship distress.

Dr Maeve Hurley, a GP by profession and founder of Ag Eisteacht, said: “With services under increasing pressure, our goal is to support Ireland’s frontline workers – whether in a professional or voluntary capacity – whilst improving outcomes for users of these vital services.

“When people are finding it hard to cope, particularly in their relationships, research shows that they often turn to a frontline practitioner in their lives whom they already trust. This could be a doctor, a public health nurse, a teacher, a social worker, community worker or someone working within the homeless services. As a frontline practitioner, this can be difficult to manage, particularly when balancing a heavy caseload – and given the pressures these service providers are operating under.

“The willingness and ability of practitioners to engage with their clients when key relationships come under pressure is admirable, but there is very little training available in Ireland on this to support them. We find that many practitioners are often unsure about broaching the topic of relational wellbeing, afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

ABLE equips practitioners with the skills to empathise, relate and respond appropriately to relationship distress. The training shares techniques in building effective working relationships, establishing boundaries, listening actively and reflectively, and empowering service users to create solutions to their issues.

Research shows that relationships are key to supporting people’s health and wellbeing at all stages throughout the life cycle, from cradle to grave, and particularly at times of key transitions.

“ABLE training is based on a ‘brief intervention model’ which aims to maximise frontline workers’ effectiveness when ‘turned to’, particularly in times of crises, despair or need,” said Dr Maeve Hurley.

“Another equally important aspect of the training is that it helps front line workers to manage their time effectively and protect their own wellbeing.”

Susanna Abse, Consultant Psychotherapist and former CEO of renowned UK charity, Tavistock Relationships, gave a keynote speech at the launch on ‘The role relationships play in shaping our lives.’

Commenting on the ABLE programme, she said: “This is a timely and important initiative from Ag Eisteacht.  Research is now conclusively showing that relationships are at the heart of our, and our children’s health and wellbeing, so it is absolutely crucial that practitioners feel confident and equipped in this area of their work. There are very few organisations that lead in developing relational practice but Ag Eisteacht is one of them and I am thrilled to be able to support their work.”

Also speaking at the launch, Dr Sinéad Hanafin, a scholar of the European Academy of Nursing Science, a Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity and managing director of the research consultancy company, Research Matters, compiled a report for Ag Eisteacht called ‘Relationships Matter,’ using a number of national data and research sources to present an overview of relationships in Ireland. The report presents the available data on relationships throughout the life cycle, from infancy through to relationships in later life. It includes a review of relationships in the workplace and community, as well as addressing the topic of adverse relationship experiences.

ABLE training is now available via

Author Bio

We deliver training to frontline practitioners working in the health, education, social, youth and community sectors in either a professional or voluntary capacity. Since 2001, we have delivered our evidence-based, accredited and evaluated training to over 1,500 frontline practitioners. We offer a range of training programmes, including ABLE and Ag Eisteacht4Business, which are built on our core values of time, attention and respect. We focus on relational capability which is the capacity of people to establish and maintain close relationships, both at home and in the wider community, as a key determinant of health and wellbeing.

Ag Eisteacht’s ABLE training programme is accredited for continuous professional development purposes by the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) and the Department of Education and Skills (DES).

Twitter: #ABLElaunch


If the time has come for you to move to the next level, there is a range of courses in the major colleges, recruiting right now, for Masters-level qualifications.

DCU – MSc in Intellectual Disability Nursing Practice

In Dublin City University (DCU)’s School of Nursing and Human Sciences, they have developed a postgraduate educational framework for nurses and other healthcare practitioners – this comes in response to the changing needs of educational provision in healthcare practice and stakeholder consultation. Its modules focus on practice-embedded elements. You can expect to work at least 20 hours per week in an area related to your intended focus of study, e.g.

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ucdUCD – Rehabilitation & Disability Studies, M.Sc.

The UCD MSc in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies is delivered by the UCD Centre for Disability Studies. This two-year part-time programme is aimed at candidates currently working or volunteering in the disability field who seek to obtain leadership roles within the sector.

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trinnersTrinity College Dublin – M.Sc. in Disability Studies

The M.Sc. in Disability Studies at Trinity College Dublin is now taking applications for 2017-2018.

The M.Sc. in Disability Studies, School of Social Work and Social Policy, provides students with a deep understanding of disability from social, historical, cultural, economic and policy perspectives. Graduates of the M.Sc. are equipped with the knowledge, analytical skills and perspectives to help translate rights into reality in the field of disability.

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