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Researchers from Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast, King’s College London and Bath Spa University have been awarded the European Social Work Research Association Award for an Outstanding Publication in European Research for their investigation into social workers’ wellbeing and attitudes to ageing in their profession.

The report was led by Dr Paula McFadden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work and co-authored by Dr Patricia Gillen, Reader in Nursing and Midwifery and Dr John Mallett, Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology. Queen’s University Belfast academics Dr John Moriarty and Dr Heike Schroder also co-authored the study.

Based on a survey of over 1300 social workers across the UK the study findings showed high demand for increased work flexibility and suggested that many social workers may retire early if provisions aren’t put in place to offer more support.

Speaking about the achievement, Dr McFadden said,

“Our continued engagement with the social care sectors as well as the NI business community pointed us to a real need to better understand the phenomenon of growing old in high-demand, high-stress professions. What we produced is an example of low cost, high impact research using those very networks to access individuals in a range of service contexts. The paper will directly feed into the ongoing Social Work Workforce Review by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, and we hope this review will be a model for the other UK nations to plan for shifting demographics in the workforce and the population at large.”

Dr Patricia Gillen also commented

“The issue about the ageing workforce is a critical matter, and health and education sectors have already begun to address this through their workforce planning and research. It is therefore important that we know more about demographic changes in social work, to inform workforce strategy for this profession.”

On presenting the Outstanding Publication Award to Dr McFadden, ESWRA Chair Professor Judith Metz commented:

“The Awards panel received a total of 24 nominations for this award, and unanimously agreed that the publication is an excellent article, which constitutes a relevant piece of research in social work, focusing on a very interesting topic for social work practitioners, educators, researchers and policy makers. I would like to congratulate Dr McFadden and co-authors on this outstanding work.”

Dr McFadden accepted the Award on behalf of herself and co-authors at the Opening Ceremony of the virtual ESWRA Conference, hosted by the University of Bucharest, Romania on 4th May 2021.