Social workers’ role in treating trauma in Northern Ireland should be recognised

A trauma expert has called on the government to recognise the
important role social workers play in helping to rehabilitate
victims of Northern Ireland’s troubles.

Arlene Healey, consultant family therapist at the Family Trauma
Centre, said that thousands of people in Ulster suffered from
trauma brought on by experiencing or witnessing violence and death,
many turning to social workers for help.

Some of these people have death threats against them, raising
difficult ethical issues for social workers to deal with, she

“A young girl may mention that members of her family belong to a
paramilitary organisation,” said Healey. “There is no guidance on
what you do with that. So you have to be careful what you write in
your report and make sure it includes no identifying information
because you might be subpoenaed to hand it over. If you did
anything to place someone in danger they and others would never
come back,” she added.

While confidentiality was paramount, Healey also said that social
workers had a duty to act if information suggested a person’s life
was in danger.

The Department of Health should provide permanent funding – this is
the fifth year the centre has received temporary funding – to help
understand trauma, she added.

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