Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work

Trustees, Staff & Journal Editors

The policy and affairs of the charity are overseen by our board of Trustees.  The trustee board is elected annually at our Annual General Meeting.  If you are interested in becoming a GAPS trustee, you can let us know hereThe day-to-day running of GAPS is organised by our Coordinator and our Administrator. You can read more about GAPS Trustees and Staff below.  Or get in touch.

Our Trustees

Juliet Koprowska

Juliet Koprowska

Chair of GAPS

I qualified as a social worker in 1985 after a first degree in English Literature. I worked for 11 years predominantly in the field of adult mental health, before taking up a post at the University of York where I worked for 23 years, leaving my post as Senior Lecturer in Social Work in 2018. I am a registered social worker and member of BASW.

I was introduced to GAPS while studying for my social work degree and have been a member ever since. My primary interest lies in how relationships are shaped through communication, using the lenses of systems theory, neurobiology, and conversation and discourse analysis. I am trained in Agazarian’s Systems-Centered® theory and practice (SCT®), which integrates psychodynamic, attachment and systemic theory, and am a Licensed Systems-Centered Practitioner. SCT enables understanding of human systems from the individual through the family, group and team to organisational and political systems, and offers methods for change. I am also part of an international group of social work scholars, DANASWAC (Discourse and Narrative Approaches to Counselling and Social Work), whose members study communication up close. Working with people, not on them, is at the heart of these approaches.

Social work, when resources are scarce and ‘othering’ people is a popular solution to complex individual and societal problems pushes social work into a gate-keeping and policing role. But social workers have the capacity to offer hope, recognition and connection to people who are often at the edges of society and experiencing the sharp end of political change. Maintaining our common humanity with each other and the people we work with is at the heart of social work, reaching across the divide by which systemic and structural forces create and maintain disadvantage and inequality.

SCT® and Systems-Centered® are registered trademarks of the Systems-Centered Training and Research Institute, Inc., a non-profit organization.

Liz Reilly

Trustee, Secretary

I qualified in Social Work in 1999, and have worked within a range of statutory settings since then, with children, young people, families and carers. I have also had an interest in Social Work education and training, and am now a Senior Lecturer at UWE, Bristol. A key and constant interest has been how best to work with individual or familial change within the enormity of their environment. Moreover I am interested in how curiosity, criticality and ethical rigour can support good practice against personal, systemic and societal pressures.

When I found GAPs , I found a secure place as a practitioner to think, feel, reflect and challenge. I found committed and inspirational thinkers and practitioners. I found affordable and transformative workshops and conferences. I found a wealth of knowledge and encouragement to write. I gained confidence to use the ‘relationship’ more in my practice. I welcome all Social Workers to share our community and to learn and develop with us.

Katharine Scanlan


I qualified as a social worker in 1987 after gaining early experience as a residential social worker. Since qualifying I have been employed in a range of social work settings and roles. In recent years I have contributed to teaching on social work programmes at the University of Lincoln, Middlesex University and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. I have recently completed a Professional Doctorate in Social Work with the Tavistock /UEL. My research involves aspects of end of life care and my approach is informed by psychodynamic and systemic thinking.

I am proud to be a registered social worker, a member of BASW and of the Association of Palliative Care Social Workers as well as a member and trustee of GAP’s. I firmly believe that social work has a central role to play in the integrated care agenda and that social work values and practice are essential throughout our complex world.

I am committed to GAP’s because of the way that it promotes and supports relationship-based practice, offering nourishment and hope to the profession as well as accessibility to those working at the frontline. My vision for GAP’s is it that it will continue to thrive and extend its reach.

Phil Leonard

Phil Leonard


I qualified as a social worker in 1988 following a few years as a residential social worker with the RNID and the local authority. I have experience in the areas of child protection, therapeutic work with children and their families at the edge of care, fostering and adoption. I worked with Cafcass for 13 years, and a then as an IRO for 7 years. More recently I’ve trained as a counsellor for adults and will now build a private practice from home.

When reflecting on my career, I can say that resources have always been scarce but the political climate has become increasingly hostile leaving many practitioners feeling almost as abandoned and disillusioned as the people they are trying to help. Yet, as a more experienced practitioner, I’ve been encouraged and moved by the great dedication and enthusiasm shown by early-career social workers, many of whom know and value the role of the relationship in social work practice. I believe it is vital to all human services to support and nurture those practitioners and their values.

I joined GAPS as a Trustee in 2010 and have been proud to be part of its great development as an organisation that faces change (politically, socially and ecologically), and continues to support and inspire reflective social workers who want to use the best of themselves to help others.

Maria Emilsson

Maria Emilsson


I qualified as a social worker in 2010 and in social work practice teaching in 2017. Prior to this I completed a degree in Psychology and worked as a practitioner in Action for Children using Solution focused brief practice with families in crises. During my traineeship and post qualifying, I was a practitioner and manager in NSPCC providing social work based therapeutic intervention to victims of Domestic Abuse and to care experienced young people.
I currently work as a Principal Social Work practitioner of Social Work governance and as a trainer in the Learning Development and Governance Team in the WHSC Trust, Northern Ireland. I have a particular interest in therapeutic and relationship based social work, attachment and trauma informed practice, and staff wellbeing. I continue to stay involved with Solution Focused Brief Therapy and contribute to the professional development of social work.
I was introduced to GAPS in 2016 and became a Trustee in 2021. I have found that the community of GAPS provides important opportunities for connection, exchange of ideas, learning and where we can all contribute to the development of Social Work practice. Workshops and discussion forums have facilitated a critical lens through which I can examine Social Work within the challenges and agendas of today’s world, an important part of my professional accountability.

Louise Sims


I qualified as a social worker in 2003. My professional identity has always been an important part of how I understand myself, my relationships and my place in the world. I have worked in practice and in social work education and more recently in the policy field. I am interested in the different domains of social work and how methods, understanding and knowledge can be shared, adapted and enhanced across communities of practice.

GAPS is my secure base in a world in flux. It provides a vital connecting space across social work ideas, knowledges and communities. It also, for me, has a political function. This is a politics which does not shy away from complexity, failure or vulnerability. GAPS somehow manages to create spaces and conversations that are both challenging and kind. That’s no mean feat and, in my experience of organisations, really quite special. GAPS has enriched my practice and I hope that as a trustee I can give something back.

Mim Gale


I qualified as a Social Worker in 2017. Prior to this I worked in supervised family time and return home interviews. As a child of foster carers, I have had Social Workers in my life since a very young age and vowed to do Social Work better than those Social Workers I met. I currently work in a Family Safeguarding Team for a Local Authority.

I am a registered Social Worker and a member of BASW. I have worked across different areas of Social Work including assessment, CIN and CP, children in care and Court work in public law with the Local Authority and private law with CAFCASS.

I have been a member of GAPS since 2018 and became a trustee in 2022. I am very proud to be involved in GAPS. For me, GAPS is an organisation for Social Workers, run by Social Workers and realistic about the world of Social Work.


Afiya Rufaro


I have worked in social work since 1990, in children’s services, adults, mental health and youth offending teams and currently work as an AMHP and hospital social worker. My relationship with social work at times is a challenge, within an environment of increasing reduction of resources, understanding and investment in the services, especially at the more crucial prevention part of the continuum leaves me feeling at times demoralized, tired and in need of a renewed sense of “why, what and for whom”, which is why research and therapeutic space to think about issues differently are crucial to practice.

I was introduced to GAPS while attending on of training conferences and have been a member ever since, becoming a trustee in 2022. I am very interested in being part of ” supporting practice” within social work, supporting the work with the progression of ideas, evidence based practice and the idea of having a continued supportive creation of space to grow and reflect within practice to respond to the changing economic, structural and geo-political concerns that effect our clients.


Brittany Bernard


I qualified as a social worker in 2015 here in the UK following my work as a youth worker in Canada. As a social worker, I worked in statutory children’s social care, with a focus on long term intervention and later, specialised systemic support for families experiencing domestic abuse. I now work as a social work educator at Frontline. I am also completing my Professional Doctorate in Advanced Social Work (Practice and Research) at the Tavistock and Portman. My research takes a Community-Based Participatory Approach and centers on what LGBTQ+ care experienced people believe statutory social workers can do to be affirmative and inclusive in their practice with LGBTQ+ children and young people in care. I am passionate about co-production with individuals with lived experience of social care.

I am passionate about social work and see it as my vocation, not just my job. In my role at GAPS I feel privileged to have the opportunity to support and contribute to the development of the profession. I was introduced to GAPS whilst attending the annual conference and became a trustee in 2022. I am excited to be a part of the ongoing development and growth of GAPS. I value the space the organisation provides for reflection, connection, and professional development.

Tracy Almond


Gloria Kirwan

Co-Editor – Journal of Social Work Practice, Trustee

Andrew Whittaker

Co-Editor – Journal of Social Work Practice

Our Staff

Hannah Pepper

Hannah Pepper

Project Co-ordinator

My interest in Social Work was sparked when studying for a degree in Social Policy as a mature student. I became concerned about the ways in which Social Work was portrayed in the media, and how, in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbié, Child Protection might be shaped by the Public Inquiry report’s demands for greater accountability. As I began a Master’s and PhD programme, the story of Baby ‘P’ was unfolding. My thesis looked at the ways in which Social Workers were called to account for their work through data systems, and how these accounts were interpreted remotely by senior management and auditors. I contrasted these with oral accounts practitioners gave each other during informal peer supervision and daily team meetings.

I have been the Project Co-ordinator at GAPS since 2017.  I am really happy to work in an organisation which provides opportunities for social workers to connect and discuss their practice away from the confines of the workplace.

I am currently training in Humanistic Integrative Psychotherapy.

Stephen Marsden

Stephen Marsden


I have had a long-term interest in and involvement with psychodynamic and other types of psychotherapy and have worked in finance and administration within the voluntary sector for over twenty years.

Centre for Social Work Practice Legacy Fund

The legacy fund was launched on 9th November 2021... find out more...

Practice Development Bursaries

GAPS Members may apply for bursaries to fund, for example, conference attendance, setting up a work discussion group, running a workshop, or other practice development opportunities.