Ag Eisteacht launches ABLE programme to support frontline workers

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

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