HEALTH: Cork charity ‘Ag Eisteacht’ launches ABLE programme to support frontline workers

12 May 2017
By Tom Collins

The Cork-based charity ‘Ag Eisteacht’ has launched ‘ABLE’, a nationwide, relational-based training programme to support frontline practitioners working in services such as the health, education, probation, youth, child & family, disability and homeless services.

The launch took place today at Nano Nagle Place, Cork City.

ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build, Listen and Empower), is an accredited, evidenced-based training programme designed to help frontline workers understand the impact relationships have on every aspect of a person’s life.

It aims to give practitioners the skills to respond effectively and engage with the people who turn to them for help, often in times of relationship distress.

Dr Maeve Hurley, a GP by profession and founder of Ag Eisteacht, said: “With services under increasing pressure, our goal is to support Ireland’s frontline workers – whether in a professional or voluntary capacity – whilst improving outcomes for users of these vital services.

“When people are finding it hard to cope, particularly in their relationships, research shows that they often turn to a frontline practitioner in their lives whom they already trust. This could be a doctor, a public health nurse, a teacher, a social worker, community worker or someone working within the homeless services. As a frontline practitioner, this can be difficult to manage, particularly when balancing a heavy caseload – and given the pressures these service providers are operating under.

Susanna Abse, consultant psychotherapist and Dr Maeve Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Ag Eisteacht, seen here at the launch of Ag Eisteachts ABLE training programme
Picture. Darragh Kane
Susanna Abse, consultant psychotherapist, Dr Maeve Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Ag Eisteacht, Declan Cunningham, Ag Eisteacht trainer, and Donncha Casey, chair of the board of Ag Eisteacht. Pictured at Nano Nagle Place in Cork at the launch of Ag Eisteachts ABLE training programme
Picture. Darragh Kane
Susanna Abse, consultant psychotherapist; Dr Maeve Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Ag Eisteacht, and Dr SinŽad Hanafin from Research Matters, pictured here at the launch of Ag EisteachtÕs ABLE training programme at Nano Nagle Place in Cork.
Picture. Darragh Kane
Dr. Maeve Hurley, CEO and Co-founder of Ag ƒisteach and Susanna Abse, Consultant Psychotherapist at the launch of Ag Eisteacht Able Training Programme for front line workers in Nano Nagle Place.
Picture. Darragh Kane

“The willingness and ability of practitioners to engage with their clients when key relationships come under pressure is admirable, but there is very little training available in Ireland on this to support them. We find that many practitioners are often unsure about broaching the topic of relational wellbeing, afraid of saying the wrong thing.”

ABLE equips practitioners with the skills to empathise, relate and respond appropriately to relationship distress. The training shares techniques in building effective working relationships, establishing boundaries, listening actively and reflectively, and empowering service users to create solutions to their issues.

Research shows that relationships are key to supporting people’s health and wellbeing at all stages throughout the life cycle, from cradle to grave, and particularly at times of key transitions.

“ABLE training is based on a ‘brief intervention model’ which aims to maximise frontline workers’ effectiveness when ‘turned to’, particularly in times of crises, despair or need,” said Dr Maeve Hurley.

“Another equally important aspect of the training is that it helps front line workers to manage their time effectively and protect their own wellbeing.”

Susanna Abse, Consultant Psychotherapist and former CEO of UK charity, Tavistock Relationships, is giving a keynote speech at the launch on ‘The role relationships play in shaping our lives.’

Commenting on the ABLE programme, she said: “This is a timely and important initiative from Ag Eisteacht. Research is now conclusively showing that relationships are at the heart of our, and our children’s health and wellbeing, so it is absolutely crucial that practitioners feel confident and equipped in this area of their work. There are very few organisations that lead in developing relational practice but Ag Eisteacht is one of them and I am thrilled to be able to support their work.”

Also speaking at the launch will be Dr Sinéad Hanafin, a scholar of the European Academy of Nursing Science, a Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity and managing director of the research consultancy company, Research Matters.

Dr Hanafin has compiled a report for Ag Eisteacht called ‘Relationships Matter,’ using a number of national data and research sources to present an overview of relationships in Ireland. The report presents the available data on relationships throughout the life cycle, from infancy through to relationships in later life. It includes a review of relationships in the workplace and community, as well as addressing the topic of adverse relationship experiences.

ABLE training is now available via

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