no image available

Mrs Helen Donnellan

Honorary Research Assistant

School of Health Professions (Faculty of Health)



I have over 25 years experience of working in social care and since 1995, I have been actively involved in professional social work education and training, working in partnership with both statutory and third-sector employers, agencies and educational institutions across the south-west peninsula.  Until its close in 2005, I managed the Far South West Post Qualifying Consortium with responsibility for the development of programmes within the General Social Care Council’s post-qualifying (PQ) framework for social work.  As part of the development of that role from 2000 – 2007 I was programme co-ordinator / manager for the BSc (Hons) Professional Studies (Child Care – PQ Specialist Level) at University of Plymouth, holding responsibility for course development, induction delivery and partnership management.  I have been a member of the standing conference on child care programmes and contributed a mapping of requirements for ‘early start’ PQprogrammes at specialist level in child care, within the General Social Care Council’s revised PQ framework in 2007.

My interest in the early career development of children and families social workers led to two projects in 2007/8, evaluating the induction of newly-qualified social workers in three local authorities in England and an evaluation of the experiences of a cohort of social workers undertaking the first PQ consolidation module in work with children and families.   These studies culminated in the publication of a book, co-authored with Gordon Jack - The Survival Guide for Newly-qualified Child & Family Social Workers - Hitting the Ground Running, published in 2010 by Jessica Kingsley.

 My recent publications include:

  • Front Line Research Briefing for Child Care Social Workers: Child Development’ (October 2010), commissioned by Dartington Research in Practice,  which is the  first in a new series of research briefing papers aimed at front line child care practitioners, across the integrated workforce, including the voluntary sector, which combines a paper-based chart and on-line, web-based text.
  • Social Work with Children - a guide for practitioners working with a wide range of children, based on two key organising frameworks - child development and human ecology - co-authored with Gordon Jack and published in August 2013 by Palgrave Macmillan.

Since 2009, I have also led a number of recent, externally-funded studies in Devon evaluating the impact of a variety of interventions and services aiming to support informal family caregivers of all ages in their caring role to enhance their health and well-being. 



2013    MSc Social Research (Distinction), University of Plymouth

Relevant professional experience

1995 – Closure in 2005: Manager, Far South West PQ Consortium part of a national network of academic and employer collaborations, with responsibility in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth and Torbay for developing and accrediting all programmes of study within the General Social Care Council’s professional framework for social work at post-qualifying level.

 2000 - 2007: Programme Co-ordinator / Manager for BSc (Hons) Professional Studies (Child Care – PQ Specialist Level), with responsibility for course development, delivery of induction programmes and external partnership management.

 2003 – 2007: Chair, Subject Assessment Panel which holds responsibility for standardisation of assessment  across all Level H PQ child care modules in social work at the University of Plymouth.

 2003 – 2006: Member of National Standing Conference on Child Care Programmes, with contribution to mapping of requirements for ‘early start’ PQ programmes at Specialist level in child care, within the General Social Care Council’s revised PQ framework.

Previous experience as an external examiner, validation/approval panellist

1999 – 2005: External Panellist for programmes seeking professional accreditation from Wessex, Greater London and Surrey & Sussex PQ Consortia

 2003: Approval Panel Member - Professional Programme ‘PQ1 in Work with Children & Families’, University of Exeter for delivery in Jersey and Guernsey

 2003; 2004; 2006: Author/Presenter to academic validation panels at University of Plymouth of three programmes – one at Level M; two at Level H – in child care, prepared to meet the requirements of the GSCC’s revised professional PQ framework at Specialist and Higher Specialist levels

 2007 March: External Panellist: Anglia Ruskin University MA Advanced Social Work / PGDip Children & YP / Graduate Dip.Children & YP / BA (Hons) Specialist Social Work

 2007 May: Author/Presenting Panellist:  MSc Public & Community Health, Joint Accreditation Board, Peninsula Post-graduate Health Institute, Universities of Plymouth & Exeter



Research interests

My research interests have centred on the experiences of newly-qualified social workers as they make the transition from education and training into the workplace and their early career develpment as qualified professionals, from both the personal and organisational perspectives.

A second strand to my research draws on a number of recent, externally-funded projects exploring the experiences of informal family carers of all ages and the services and supports which promote thier quality of life and well-being.

Grants & contracts

Project Funding/Awards (Total £236,700 to date)

July 2013       Final Evaluation of ‘Neighbourhood Links’ Project, a community-based project to support older people in North Devon funded by Big Lotterym sponsored by Torridge Voluntary Services (£4k)

July 2012       Evaluation of ‘After Caring’ Project, a community-based project to support informal family carers facing bereavement or transition to long-term residential care, funded by Comic Relief; sponsored by Torridge Voluntary Services (£8k)

March 2012   Interim Evaluation of ‘Neighbourhood Links’ Project, a community-based project to support older people in North Devon funded by Big Lottery and delivered through Torridge Voluntary Services (£5k)

June 2011/12     Developing as a Professional – A student & newly-qualified social  worker survey, supported by British Association of Social Workers / University of Plymouth / Durham University

 June 2011     Evaluation of ‘Catalyst Pluss’ Project, in collaboration with SERIO.  This is an evaluation of a project funded through the EU Competitiveness ESF Programme in the south-west.  (£13K)

Oct 2010        Carers’ Health & Well-being Checks – A service evaluation study,     funded by DH/Devon County Council/Westbank Friends, (£81k)

 July 2009       An evaluation of a PQ/PG Distance Learning Module (Pilot) in Leadership & Management - “Supervising Staff & Maintaining Standards”, funded by Gloucestershire University/Skills for Care (£7k)

July 2009       Exploring reflective supervision - post qualification, funded by Skills for Care South-West (£9k)

May 2009       GP Carers' Project - A service evaluation, funded by Westbank Friends/Devon County Council/DH (£23k)

Mar 2009       Developing potential: website, as a regional social work resource, funded by Skills for Care South-West (£7k)

Aug 2008       Mental Health Housing Worker for Young People - A service evaluation, funded by Young Devon (£1.2k)

Mar 2008       PQ Evaluation Project - Consolidation training for qualified social workers, funded by Skills for Care National Innovations Fund (£18k)

Dec 2007       PQ Evaluation Project - Induction of newly-qualified social workers funded by Peninsula Child Care Programme Partnership (£38k)

Mar 2007      Distance Learning Study Skills Resource for Returners to HE (Social Work), funded by University of Plymouth (£4k)

July 2006/7   PQ Managed Learning Environment Website, funded by Skills for Care Learning Resource Centre Funding (£17.5K)