29th January, 2019

More needs to be done to support those living with the legacy of childhood trauma in Northern Ireland. That is just one of the conclusions from VBook, a new online project launched by Extern, the leading social justice charity.

The VBook (Vbookni.org) is a first for Northern Ireland. It enables social workers in Northern Ireland’s voluntary sector to publish peer-reviewed articles online around their specialised areas of work, with their insights based on real frontline experience of dealing with people with a range of complex problems and needs.

Extern hopes the project will play a vital part in enabling the Department of Health to identify gaps and plan for vital new service provision. In addition to sharing such invaluable knowledge with colleagues and peers, it will also play a key part in the education of the next generation of social workers currently studying at universities in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The new Vbookni.org website was officially launched on Monday, January 28th, 2019, and among the issues raised in the new publication is the importance of trauma-informed ways of working with those who have suffered such experiences in their lives. This need is particularly acute for children, as maltreatment or bad experiences at a young age can imprint throughout the rest of their lives.

The publication emphasises that there is a “clear and strong argument” for social work intervention with children and families within the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland, adding that voluntary services can help with building resilience, reducing toxic stress, and bringing about positive change in family relationships.

“Early intervention for children facing trauma in their lives is absolutely crucial, and this is just one of the ideas examined in the chapters of this new VBook,” said Gillian McAuley, Extern’s Practice Development Manager, who has helped compile the new resource.

“The role played by the Voluntary Sector in not only helping tackle these kinds of issues, but also in raising them as issues in order to inform policy is a vital one. This is why websites such as Vbookni.org are an important step in highlighting the work being done in this often overlooked area of social work. Hopefully this will strengthen the case for greater resources being put towards the sector as a whole in order to help it carry out its vital work.”

The VBook is funded by Strategy for Social Work: Improving and Safeguarding Social Wellbeing, which has responsibility for the strategic direction of social work in Northern Ireland. Academic support for the project has been provided from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, while The Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) were also involved in developing the project from the beginning. The project has also been assisted by the VBook Steering Group, which consists of representatives from Bryson Charitable Group, The Salvation Army, Barnardo’s, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and NISCC.

Speaking at the launch of the VBook at Extern’s Newtownabbey headquarters, CEO Charlie Mack said: “Having a resource like the VBook is vital in helping us to take stock of the invaluable learnings, and knowledge, gathered by talented professionals who work on the frontline in the voluntary sector, as well as identifying shifts and trends in modern social work practice.

“Extern has long been at the forefront of helping to change people’s lives for the better, and the VBook is typical of the innovation and imagination we show in our approach to our work. This project is the culmination of many months of hard work, and I am confident that this will grow and develop into a valuable and highly-regarded resource for the Voluntary Sector, and also that its contents will inspire others to consider working in this dynamic area.”

Christine Smyth, Strategy Director (Social Work), Social Work Strategy, which has helped fund the project, said: “One of the aims of the Social Work Strategy is to shine a light on what social workers do and the difference they make to people’s lives. The VBook does just that.

“It is a really exciting and innovative online resource showcasing a range of excellent practice and the valuable contribution of social work in the voluntary sector in improving people’s social wellbeing. It is a great resource and I hope will inspire other social workers to share their stories and highlight the value of social work in our society.”

The VBook is available to view online at www.Vbookni.org