Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Halton, C., & Dempsey, M.
The 3rd European Conference on Social Work Research
Child Protection Social Workers Experiences of Peer Support Groups: A longitudinal study
University of JYvaskyla Finland
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
 A cohort of child protection social workers approached the researchers requesting help in setting up peer support groups. The practitioners agreed to engage with the researchers in researching their experiences of peer support, and in return, the researchers agreed to support the practitioners in   progressing and scaffolding peer support within their employing agency.  Exploring the challenges and opportunities that membership of a peer support group provides was a primary focus of the research. Participants were located in a regional area in Ireland. Two peer groups were formed comprising up to 6 participants in each. Three focus groups were completed with each of the peer groups i.e. at the beginning, middle and end of the 12 month period.  A thematic analysis of the scripts of the focus groups was undertaken to identify the challenges and opportunities that peer group members experienced. Important issues surfaced in the data relating to design, enactment and researching of such groups. Specifically, in designing peer groups the importance of familiarising group members with the concept, process and tools of reflective practice at the commencement of the peer group process were acknowledged. Enactment of peer group process i.e. building trust building mechanisms at the beginning is vital, issues related to group membership selection and the articulation, review and revision of rules of engagement were highlighted. Researching matters related to practitioner collaboration with researchers emerged as significant i.e. its implications for the group in terms of participant confidentiality and possible challenges to agency practice and procedures. The research emphasises the structural, personal, agency and professional challenges and benefits associated with developing and sustaining peer support groups in child protection practice.