Relationships in Practice

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Relationships in Practice Newsletter- September 2022

It’s hard to believe where this year has gone. It has been a busy one, with lots of transitions and new beginnings as we settle in under the SHEP umbrella. We started 2022 on high with news that we had been honoured to receive the overall Grand Prix award and Gold in the Best Community Health category of the All-Ireland Community & Council Awards 2021 for our ‘Relationships matter: building ACE awareness in the community’ initiative.

In May, our collaboration with the Heart of Frontline Practice continued with our third national seminar to support Ireland’s frontline practitioners. This hybrid event on 24th May at Nano Nagle Place was truly heartening for all.

We also welcomed Fern Higgins Atkinson as our new programme manager to lead the continued development and reach of our work.

Looking ahead to the last quarter of 2022, we have lots to share in our latest newsletter including details of fully funded training programmes and our collaborative initiatives.

We hope that you enjoy this update and we welcome feedback and opportunities to connect and collaborate.



As recently appointed programme manager for Relationships In Practice, I feel privileged to continue the tremendous work that Dr Maeve Hurley and her team have committed to over the last two decades.

 Moving into my new role has been very exciting for me. Relationships have always been at the heart of my work; they are fundamental to who we are as human beings. To see this being recognised and nurtured in such a way is ground-breaking. We are complex, yet so simple. Relationships matter, and evidence shows that quality relationships in frontline practice have a direct impact on more positive and healthy outcomes.

In this newsletter, you will find details of our upcoming training programmes to help support quality relationships in frontline practice, as well as updates about collaborative projects and other news.

I look forward to nurturing relationships with you ahead as Relationships in Practice team and SHEP (Social and Health Education Programme) look to the future with open minds and hopeful hearts.


Fern Higgins Atkinson

Programme Manager, Relationships in Practice

 087 1751259

We are expanding our team

We have an exciting opportunity for an organised and  creative individual to join our team as Training and Development Coordinator at the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP) to help support and develop our Relationships in Practice programme.

We are seeking an individual with strong organisational, communication and interpersonal skills who reflects our ethos and values and has a passion for supporting frontline practitioners’ health and wellbeing.

This is an opportunity to work closely with our Relationships in Practice Programme Manager and our Advocacy & Training Coordinator in a caring, supportive and relationship-centred environment at our SHEP office in Ballintemple, Cork.

Relationships in Practice is a collaboration between the Ag Eisteacht Foundation and SHEP. The programme provides reflective spaces, tools and insight to support practitioners’ understanding of how quality relationships impact positively on health and well-being outcomes.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 7th October 2022. Please click here for further details:

*We are open to facilitating a jobshare arrangement

Bookings open for ABLE4School Leaders – How and Why Relationships Matter


“Fostering healthy relationships with peers, teachers and school staff are essential to children’s positive experience of school and their cognitive and emotional development. The needs and well-being of school staff are also of paramount importance.” DES Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion

Following the successful launch of our CSL (Centre for School Leadership) endorsed programme last year, we are delighted to share 2022 dates for ‘ABLE4School Leaders – How and Why Relationships Matter in Schools’.

Starting on Wednesday 21st September via Zoom, this evidence-based programme supports a relationship-centred approach in schools. It raises awareness of the factors that contribute to the creation of a safe and secure school environment where the concerns and contributions of parents, children and teachers are acknowledged.

Why do positive relationships matter in schools?

As human beings, we are primed to relate and connect. Positive relationships in schools not only foster well-being but also children’s capacity to learn and engage.

Our goal is to support school leaders in nurturing positive relationships in schools, but also to manage their time and boundaries for their own health and wellbeing via our ABLE (Adopt a Relational Approach, Build & Boundary, Listen & Empower & End) brief intervention model.

This interactive, small group learning experience for up to 12 participants will be delivered virtually by Bernie Rodgers and Rose Crowley, two licensed Relationships in Practice trainers.

We are also facilitating two further days after the training to help establish an on-line community of practice so that school leaders from all over Ireland can connect and share insight, experience and best practice.

Feedback from previous participants include: “This course was excellent. Bernie and Rose are amazing at what they do. They have a wonderful rapport with each other. Their calm and soothing voices really have made the course so enjoyable. They really are the Dream Team”, Mary, Deputy Principal.

Booking are via Eventbrite or email

ABLE in Practice refresher days

Our in-person ABLE in Practice sessions are back and we look forward to welcoming previous participants from SHEP (Social and Health Education Project) in Cork on 21st September. The following week, on 27th September, we are returning to the Wisdom Centre in Dublin for another  ABLE in Practice refresher day with participants who completed our in-person ABLE training programme in March via Sophia Housing at the Wisdom Centre.

These complimentary refresher sessions offer previous participants an opportunity to reconnect with one another and to embed the learning into practice.  We’re excited to hear how practitioners have used our ABLE (Adopt a Relational Approach, Build & Boundary, Listen and Empower & End) brief intervention model in their daily routine practice to build positive relationships with families and individuals while looking after their time and boundaries.

An invitation to pause and reflect

Dr Maeve Hurley, Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan and SHEP, the collaborators behind the Heart of Frontline Practice alliance, warmly invite you to their next reflective practice ‘Touchpoint’ on Tuesday 15th November* from 10.30am to 1pm at Northridge Education & Research Centre in Blackrock, Cork.

Dr Naomi Masheti will facilitate a 2.5-hour in-person workshop on ‘Inclusive Practice: Breaking the silence around race and mental health’.

*Please Note: This touchpoint has been rescheduled from the 4th October 2022 to the 15th November 2022. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

This inclusive event will be hosted by Jim Sheehan, director of SHEP (the Social and Health Education Project).

Dr Masheti is the coordinator of Cork Migrant Centre. Originally from Kenya, she has been living in Cork since 2001. Before joining the CMC, she attended UCC where she completed her PhD in 2015 specialising in the Psychosocial Wellbeing of Sub-Saharan African Migrant Children.

This in-person continuing professional development seminar is open to all practitioners. The intention is to create a supportive space where we can 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.

We hope that you can take time out of your daily routine work to join us for this nourishing and inspiring workshop with Dr Masheti who will share her wonderful wisdom and insight.

The subsidised fee is €30 and bookings are now being taken via Eventbrite or email



Fully funded training places available via SHEP and Relationships in Practice

SHEP (Social and Health Education Project) has been awarded a grant under the Government’s ‘What Works – Sharing Knowledge’ fund to provide fully funded training programmes to frontline practitioners and parents.

The ‘What Works  – Sharing Knowledge’’ fund promotes evidence-informed approaches to prevention and early intervention services for children, young people and their families.

Liam McCarthy, SHEP senior training and development officer (Community Education & Development), said: “The impetus for applying for this funding came from our awareness of the need to provide further support to frontline practitioners and children and families who are still responding to the fallout from the pandemic in their lives and in their work.

“In March 2020 the world shifted. Covid-19 has caused unprecedented changes to societal structures and individual lives. Lockdowns, school closures, employment fragility and inaccessible health and social care services have had an immense impact on child and family wellbeing and on the frontline workers who are supporting them in very challenging environments.”

Two of the training programmes are open to frontline practitioners working in early intervention and prevention settings in Ireland. 

A 3-Day ABLE brief intervention programme will be delivered on-line via Zoom by two Relationships in Practice licensed trainers on 15th, 29th and 30th November 2022. This evidence-based programme supports participants in taking a relationship-centred approach in their work and to manage their time and boundaries for their own health and wellbeing.

Fern Higgins Atkinson, programme manager for Relationships in Practice, said: “We are offering 16 fully funded places, so this is an opportunity for any practitioner working in early intervention and prevention to take part in a small group, experiential and supportive on-line space. 

“ Our ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build & Boundary, Listen and Empower & End) training provides the skills, knowledge and a framework to build and maintain positive relationships in practice and to develop understanding of the transformative impact of supportive relationships on health and wellbeing outcomes. The content includes emerging scientific insights from the fields of relationship theory, parent-infant mental health, childhood development and interpersonal neurobiology, to help practitioners understand what may be going on for the children and adults they support.”

The second fully funded course, ‘Critical Reflection for Practitioners’ will be run by SHEP, with spaces limited to a maximum of 14 participants. This innovative and practical reflective practice course will run on-line as well and will use the Critical Reflection model for practitioners involved in prevention or early intervention work with children, youth or family support.

This course will run over 10 x 3-hour sessions spaced every two or three weeks during this autumn and winter, with dates to be confirmed.

Another fully funded programme is ‘Empowering parents of children with Autism’.

Starting on 23rd September at 10.00am and running over 20 weekly sessions via Zoom, this course is open to any parent or guardian of a child or adolescent with a diagnosis of Autism or presenting with the signs of Autism awaiting assessment or navigating the pathway to assessment.

Two experienced SHEP facilitators will offer parents the opportunity to support each other as they explore and learn together, sharing the joys and challenges of parenting a child with Autism.

The course fee for all the above training programmes is fully supported by the grant.

Expressions of interest are now being taken so please email

and for the Relationships in Practice ABLE training places:

Huge demand for fully funded ABLE programme in Cork

[Image: Northridge House]

Expressions of interest have been flying in from practitioners to join us for a fully funded, 3-day, ABLE training programme at Northridge House Education & Research Centre in Blackrock in October.

In fact, the interest has been so high that the October course is now fully booked and a second course in November/December is almost full.

This collaborative offering between SHEP, Cork Healthy Cities and Let’s Grow Together is open to all frontline practitioners working in health, social care and the justice sectors.

Due to demand, we are now considering offering a third course in the early 2023 and we invite further expressions of interest.

Our ABLE evidence-informed programme is CPD approved and aims to give practitioners the insight, skills and knowledge to respond effectively and empathetically with people who turn to them for help, often in times of distress. The ABLE brief intervention model also provides a framework for practitioners to manage their time and boundaries.



As always, we are offering a small group, experiential learning experience, so places are limited.

If you are interested in learning more about the transformative impact that supportive relationships in frontline practice have on health and wellbeing outcomes, please contact

A warm welcome to Norma

We are delighted to introduce Norma Roche, who has been appointed advocacy and training co-ordinator with Relationships in Practice. Norma has been a trainer with SHEP for the past eleven years, as well as a part-time lecturer with the UCC’s Adult Continuing Education department. She has a BA Degree in Social Science and has previously worked as Community Development Co-ordinator with The Lantern Community Project at Nano Nagle Place and Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator with Avondhu Blackwater Partnership Ltd. 

In her new role with us, Norma will support our evidence-based ABLE training programmes and coordinate and develop our advocacy work to support relationship-based practice and understanding of why quality relationships matter in frontline work.

Norma said: “I was first involved with SHEP when I was just 17-year-old, so our relationship has strengthened and grown over the years. It seems fitting – and an honour – to be part of the Relationships in Practice team now under SHEP and I look forward to building new relationships and rekindling others in my work ahead to support their mission and vision.”

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

― Brené Brown

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