Over the last 18 months, many organisations have limited social contact due to the pandemic.
Social work is no exception and a new virtual conference explores how social workers have maintained and even developed new connections and ways of working with colleagues and clients.
A coup for the university will see Professor Andrew Turnell connect from Australia, despite a seven-hour time difference.
Professor Turnell is a revered Australian social worker who is responsible for developing the Signs of Safety approach to child protection casework, which was first adopted by Cumbria in the UK.
He is also a professor of practice at the university since 2018. The role recognises individuals preeminent in their field and seeks to draw on their talent for the benefit of staff and students.
Andrew said about the conference: ‘the pandemic has turned all our lives upside down. It has also made us aware of how interconnected we all are across the globe and has caused us to think about how to sustain connection in a time of forced isolation.
“Social work is of course all about connection so Covid has led many of us beyond our usual way of doing things. This has been difficult in many ways and equally many of us have learned a lot as we’ve had to approach the work differently. I’m excited we can offer this conference to explore and share some of these learnings”.
Joining Andrew for a keynote speech is Professor Eileen Munro, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
She has a background in both philosophy and social work that has shaped her research interests.
Professor Munro will discuss new research with four local authorities looking at how practitioners built and sustained networks of support around vulnerable children and families.
She will outline how in order to support this approach, changes were made to leadership, supervisory methods and team functions and she will consider how some of the changes may be retained post-pandemic.
The line-up concludes with educator and broadcaster Shabnam Ahmed, team manager at London Borough Council. She is an advocate of social justice, equality and human rights.
Along with Mark Fraser, Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Cumbria, she will discuss the importance of connection within professional practice placements.
This is the first social work conference in two years as it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
Mark Fraser, Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Cumbria, who joined the university in March, has been instrumental in organising the conference.
He said: “social work by its very nature is all about connection, with people, places colleagues, among others. The implications of the pandemic, potentially limiting those connections, are far reaching. Who would have thought we would be meeting people for the first time behind masks or via video calls from our own homes?
“In this conference we will explore how we have all had to adapt to new ways of working that were necessary but also radically different to what we were used to.”
The virtual conference is primarily aimed at social work students and graduates, social workers and other healthcare practitioners.
The conference runs live on Friday 18 June from 9:30am and places are completely free. To register, follow the link.https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/university-of-cumbria-social-work-conference-tickets-148905938671.