Northern Ireland news

Spotlight shone for first time on work of social workers during Troubles

The research on the work of social workers during the Troubles is part of a two-year study and is being launched tonight
Seanín Graham

THE "remarkable" work of social workers through the Troubles who put their lives at risk to protect vulnerable people is featuring in a new study.

Research carried out by an international team of academics highlights how social workers worked in situations marked by sectarianism and violence, and focuses on the profession's previously unrecognised work, including supporting victims and families following bombings and murders.

The launch of 'Voices of Social Work Through The Troubles' will take place tonight at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

The two-year study found extreme situations became standard for the social workers involved, and pointed to their "courage, resilience and an unwavering commitment to the needs of their service users throughout".

Carolyn Ewart, national director of the British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland, described it as a "vitally important document".

"It records, for the first time, the remarkable experiences of social workers during a period of intense conflict, when it often felt as if the fabric of society was tearing apart."

Social worker Mary Anderson, a contributor to the research said: "My colleagues and I faced many challenges during The Troubles. However, working in a setting where there was constant military presence and paramilitary threat became normal, and though I took risks to my personal safety, I didn’t always realise it at the time.

"Despite the severely testing environment, my focus was on delivering services to those who needed them, regardless of their background or circumstances. By reflecting on this strife-torn period I am pleased lessons have been learned which will inform social workers practising in the many areas of Northern Ireland which continue to endure the terrible influence of paramilitarism. I am pleased that insights will also be shared to support colleagues working in societies marred by conflict across the globe."

 

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