Relationships in Practice appoints Programme Manager

Fern Higgins Atkinson has been appointed programme manager of Relationships in Practice, an evidence-based programme run under SHEP (Social and Health Education Project), in collaboration with the Ag Eisteacht Foundation.

Fern has now joined the team at the SHEP offices in Ardfolye Avenue, Cork where she is responsible for the management and development of the Relationships in Practice Programme which supports quality relationships in frontline practice through training, advocacy, collaboration and evaluation.

An experienced trainer/facilitator, a registered health promotion practitioner and a Youth Mental Health First Aid associate instructor, Fern is also a part-time lecturer at UCC in BSocSc Youth & Community Work. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health and is currently undertaking doctoral research into youth mental health policy.

Before joining Relationships in Practice, Fern worked with the West Cork Development Partnership and was initially youth health promotion and development officer before moving to coordinator with Ability West Cork.

She also holds several voluntary positions including chairperson of Bród, a charity supporting and promoting LGBTQI+ people and issues in West Cork.

Commenting on her new role with Relationships in Practice, Fern said: “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. I feel privileged to continue the tremendous work that Dr Maeve Hurley and her team have committed to over the last two decades. Along with the Relationships in Practice team and SHEP, we will move forward to the future with open minds and hopeful hearts”.

Fern is currently supporting a training programme for school leaders, run by Relationships in Practice over five days in September and October. ‘ABLE4School Leaders – How and Why Relationships Matter in Schools’ is an evidence-based programme, endorsed by the Centre for School Leadership. Its aim is to support principals, deputy principals and aspiring school leaders to take a relationship-centred approach in their work.

“We invite school leaders to grow their understanding of the transformative power of positive relationships in schools and how they impact on health, wellbeing, learning and development outcomes. This experiential, small group learning experience will be delivered virtually and facilitated by two Relationships in Practice licensed trainers.”

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