Categories: RIP Blog page




As 2022 draws to a close, I reflect on my time to date with Relationships in Practice. It has been such a great few months in my new role. Meeting the people who take part in our ABLE training reinforces my belief that relationships matter. Our highly skilled, empathetic and knowledgeable trainers create and hold safe spaces for learning and growth, leading to participants fully embracing the values and tools that we offer. When you walk into a room at the end of three long days of deep training and hear laughter, you know that you are in the right place. I want to express my gratitude to all our participants, collaborators, our trainers and all who have supported our mission and vision over the last twelve months during our transition to SHEP (Social and Health Education Project). There have been many milestones, touch points and new relationships nurtured this year. I look to the future with hope and confidence that our work continues to make a difference, impacting positively on outcomes for individuals and families throughout Ireland. On behalf of our small team, I wish you a very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas.

With gratitude,

Fern Higgins Atkinson
Programme Manager, Relationships in Practice

087 1751259

Our ABLE (Adopt a Relational Approach, Build & Boundary, Listen and Empower & End) training programme continued to thrive in 2022, with five courses running throughout the year. These included in-person and online courses, with participants drawn from many sectors of frontline practice including social workers, an occupational therapist, guidance counsellor, community group facilitator, a community rehabilitation nurse and many others. The diversity of the attendees made it an enriching experience for all. Two of the courses were in collaboration with Cork Healthy Cities and Let’s Grow Together and one was funded by the What Works grant. Another was for the SHEP team, pictured above.

100% of attendees stated there was a significant or major improvement in their skills set as a result of participating in the training. 86% felt that ABLE training had enhanced their role to understand their clients better.

This feedback was heartening to see and so vital for our evaluation process.
Comments included:

“The facilitators use of pace, knowledge and skills added to a lovely supportive atmosphere on the three days training where participants were supported to share knowledge and skills. The different skills set and knowledge of participants in the course also added to the supportive training atmosphere.”

“I would highly recommend it. The ABLE model is a framework that ensures that both the service user and the worker are getting maximum benefit out of any intervention.”

Happy Faces! ABLE Training Participants, Trainers & Relationships in Practice Team, at the last ABLE Training course of 2022


‘Excellent training, very supportive atmosphere, well worth doing.”

Working closely with CESC (Cork Education Support Centre), we held four Croke Park Hours workshops to support teachers and SNAs. Mindful of the ongoing pressures and challenges in teaching, the topics ranged from managing conflict at home and in school and building resilience to building relationships and active listening. These comments are just some of the feedback we received.

“The workshop helped me to be more aware of how home conflict impacts a child’s behaviour and how behaviour reflects a trauma or something going on in the child’s life or mind.”

National Community of Practice for School Leaders
We look forward to welcoming back participants from our ABLE 4 School Leaders: How and Why Relationships Matter in Schools for two community of practice gatherings in 2023. This Centre for School Leadership-endorsed programme runs online and offers a small-group, experiential learning experience for principals and aspiring school leaders. To register interest in our 2023 programme, please contact


Dr Maeve Hurley

Dr Maeve Hurley and Rose Crowley co-delivered training to 1st, 2nd and 3rd year UCC GP Registrars to support their understanding of relational health and its impact on health and wellbeing outcomes. Using the ABLE brief intervention model as a framework to support GP Registrars’ ability to build rapport while managing their time and boundaries, the training was very well-received. As a former GP herself, this is a subject close to Maeve’s heart. This is the eleventh year that this training has been provided to UCC’s GP Registrar Scheme, a reflection of the warm and lasting relationship held. The participants welcomed the break from the usual clinical topics and this opportunity to reflect.


We were delighted to accept training commissions from two organisations in 2022 to help their teams to build quality relationships in their daily routine practice while at the same time, looking after their own health and wellbeing. Both one-day workshops provided safe, reflective spaces for teams to be together, to think about what their personal boundaries might be and explore how they could nurture positive relationships.

“I have had a variety of different experiences and training in this broad area previously, such as reflective practice and mediation training. I was impressed and refreshed by the open and empathetic delivery style. I also found the exercises used by the trainers to be thoughtful and thought provoking.”


Our invitation to take training places on our ABLE programme fully funded by the Government’s ‘What Works – Sharing Knowledge’ fund 2022, was warmly received and successfully delivered.

SHEP’s ‘Critical Reflection for Practitioners’ is currently running bi-weekly until May 2023. All of the attendees work in prevention or early intervention work with children, youth or family support. The programme provides a reflective space for practitioners in this field who are experiencing demanding and complex local and systemic practice challenges.

On behalf of SHEP and all of the team, we would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for this invaluable funding opportunity.


We invite you to join us for a facilitated online screening of the award-winning documentary, ‘Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope’ on 31st January 2023 from 10am-12:30pm. This is open to all frontline practitioners who are interested in understanding more about the detrimental impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the buffering impact of supportive relationships.

This first screening of 2023 will have limited places so please contact to secure your complimentary place.

We have shared the documentary with 625 frontline practitioners over the last three years, and were thrilled and honoured that our work was recognised on a national level this year.


We received the overall Grand Prix Award and Gold in the Best Community Health category of the All-Ireland Community & Council Awards 2021, held in April 2022 for our ‘Relationships matter: building ACE awareness in the community’ initiative.


Nickie Egan and Joan Fletcher

One of the highs of 2022 was our third national seminar for frontline workers, held at Nano Nagle Place on 24th May 2022.

This collaborative event by the Heart of Frontline Practice alliance (Dr Maeve Hurley, SHEP (Social & Health Education Project), Relationships in Practice and Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan) provided time and space for frontline practitioners to pause and reflect on their work through a series of stimulating presentations, interactive plenary sessions and facilitated break-out spaces.  Our guest speakers were Dr Tom A. Hutchinson, Professor, Department of Medicine and Department of Oncology and Director, McGill Programs in Whole Person Care, Canada; Joan Fletcher, recently retired Head of Social Work from Goldsmiths University of London’s Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies, and Nickie Egan, Principal of North Presentation Primary School in Cork.

Save the date! Reconnecting with the Heart of Frontline Practice national seminar 2023 will take place on 30th May 2023 at Nano Nagle Place in Cork. This will be a hybrid event so online and in-person places will be available and is open to all frontline practitioners.


From L to R: Fionnuala O’Connell, Dr Maeve Hurley, Dr Naomi Masheti, Fern Higgins Atkinson, Jim Sheehan.

In 2022, we held two ‘Touchpoints’ to create supportive spaces to come together as committed practitioners to connect, share and learn and to deepen our understanding of what it means to be truly engaged in values-based, heartful practice.

The first was on 8th February with Professor Andrew Cooper facilitating an online reflective workshop on ‘Taking your Time’, with an emphasis on self-care and reflection.

On 15th November Dr Naomi Masheti, coordinator of Cork Migrant Centre, facilitated an in-person workshop with Fionnuala O’ Connell at Northridge House Education & Research Centre on ‘Inclusive Practice: Breaking the silence around race and mental health’. This reflective exploration of the impact of discrimination in our communities was eye-opening and humbling.

Save the date! Our next Touchpoint will be held in person at Northridge House on the 28th February 2023. The topic will be ‘Psychological Safety in Teams’, facilitated by Martin O’Connor, Clinical Psychologist.


From L to R, Back row to Front row: Sabrina Moris, Rose Crowley, Bernadette Rogers, Patsy Hannon (on screen), Una King, Cliodhna O’Mahoney, Dr Maeve Hurley, Fern Higgins Atkinson, Leon Ledwidge, Jim Sheehan

Staff and trainers gathered in Kilkenny in May to reconnect, reflect and to acknowledge the input of all as we plan for the future.


Robyn Pinkham

A warm welcome to Robyn Pinkham, our new Training and Development Coordinator.

Robyn has many years of experience working in various areas including administration, health research and business management. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health in which she undertook a work placement with UCC Health Matters, becoming involved in the development of UCC’s first sexual health policy. During her undergraduate degree (B.Sc. Public Health), Robyn also had the opportunity to work on community development projects while on placement in Vietnam.

Robyn has recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Trials and will now work on the development of our evidence-based ABLE training programme. She will also support our administrative, advocacy and  collaborative work.

“The greatest gift we can give anyone is our time, attention and respect.”