Radical Australian social worker whose practice is adopted by councils across UK returns to Cumbria for student conference

Radical Australian social worker whose practice is adopted by councils across UK returns to Cumbria for student conference

Dr Andrew Turnell, a renowned Australian social worker, revered for his innovative ‘Signs of Safety’ model for child protection casework, is giving a keynote address at the University of Cumbria’s third annual social work conference, this Friday 17 May.

This year’s theme is social work synthesis – what social workers can learn from different specialisms and sectors to enhance their practice.

Andrew will be sharing his insights with an audience made up of students, alumni and practising social workers.

Dr Turnell, was recently appointed professor of practice for social work, a first for the university, and said the position had particular significance for him.

He said: “the social work profession has always struggled to stake a claim for our direct practice families, communities and individuals.

“I believe social work exactly mirrors the broader social problem all overdeveloped western countries have, which is that they have lost sight of the core values of care and human connection.”  

He will be returning to Carlisle, the city he first launched ‘Signs of Safety’ over 20 years ago following the publication of his 1999 book of the same title.

Andrew has a strong affinity with the North of England since his work was warmly welcomed and assimilated by councils there first. It is suggested that as much as 63% of local authorities in England are using the framework as its sole practice model or a combination.

Now his approach has spread beyond the UK and has been taken up by in Australia, parts of USA, Canada, Sweden, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Japan.

During his flying visit, Andrew is also is visiting two often-overlooked areas of Whitehaven and Dumfries, meeting social workers there and holding two workshops on the barriers to effective social work.

Andrew strongly believes that the balance of local and expert knowledge needs to be redressed. Local professionals are the experts of their own locality and he wants to take academic practice out of university to them. .

Joining Andrew at the conference will be Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Advisor to the Scottish Government.

Iona works with policy teams leading on major programmes for the Scottish government including ‘getting it right for every child’ and community justice reform.

Prior to her current role, Iona held several challenging positions including director of social services, North Ayrshire and previously worked across a range of social services in Glasgow City Council. 

Opening the event will be Professor Brian Webster-Henderson Pro-Vice Chancellor for Health, University of Cumbria.

Brian recently joined the university in December 2018. He is an academic but has been a practising nurse, specialising in mental health and adult nursing, for 37 years.

During that time, he has worked in a range of roles and services including substance misuse, emergency medicine, elderly care and haematology.

He is a frequent international speaker and chairs the Council of Deans of Health UK.

He said of the event: “I am delighted to welcome two such distinguished experts in the field of social work to the university.

“Andrew is a radical and Iona has succeeded in some of the toughest environments. Our students, alumni and professionals will only benefit from hearing them share their real-life experiences.” 

The conference also provides an opportunity for graduating MA and BA (Hons) Social Work students to present their research and to network with.

The focus is on creating a community of practice not only with our students but also among alumni and practitioners.

To book, visit https://alumni.cumbria.ac.uk/socialworkconference2019