I am Associate Professor in Social Work in the Department of Social Work, Care and Community, School of Social Sciences. My programme of research contributes to providing evidence which can influence the development of socially just policy and practice approaches, with a particular focus on: children and young people’s marginalisation and inequality in the fields of health, social care, education, criminal justice; social and gendered aspects of young people’s sexual decision-making and reproduction; participatory, visual and creative methodology; the ethics and politics of research with marginalised groups. Having an applied approach to research my teaching provides students on social work undergraduate and postgraduate professional courses with insight to policy and practice issues associated with their studies. For example, young motherhood, child sexual abuse and exploitation, special educational needs and disability, child health and well-being, child welfare, protection and family support, prisoner welfare. I am module leader for MA Research in Social Work and MA Professional Practice research methods. I am also a personal tutor on the BA Social Work undergraduate programme. Currently I supervise a number of doctoral candidates, researching topics which span health, education, youth and social care.
My PhD thesis (University of Warwick, 2004) explored children’s lived experience of being diagnosed with ADHD and of taking stimulant medication, through the theoretical frameworks of medicalisation and the sociology of childhood. I began a post-doctoral research career at Coventry University in 2004 and contributed to the development of research and teaching for 15 years. As Reader in Sociological Research in Childhood and Youth I researched and published widely, my research takes a critical sociological approach to understanding social issues, researching and publishing in the areas of children’s mental health, disability, teenage parenting, sexual consent, child sexual abuse and exploitation and third sector prison-based interventions. I also have an interest in reflecting on the politics of research with children and young people and in influencing the development of socially just policy and practice approaches. I joined Nottingham Trent University in October 2019 where as Research Co-ordinator I am leading the development of the Social Work, Care and Community research strategy and contributing to research-informed teaching. I am also supervising seven doctoral candidates, having previously supervised four to completion and been a PhD Examiner for a number of internal and external candidates.
My research programme in child and youth studies is established and internationally acknowledged. I have made notable contributions to research on the social conditions of children and young people. My research on aspects of children’s marginalisation and exclusion has contributed an important perspective on subjective voice, whilst contextualising voice and lived experience within a critical analysis of institutional and policy frameworks which impact on the lives of children. My professional experience includes research funded by: The National Lottery, British Academy, Centre for Expertise in CSA/Home Office, DRILL, Garden Organic, Government Equalities Office, Lloyds Bank Invest, Nuffield Foundation, NSPCC, What Works in Children's Social Care.
I was a Co-Investigator on a two year study, Identifying and understanding inequalities in child welfare interventions: comparative studies in four UK countries (CWIP), funded by Nuffield Foundation. Partners in this collaboration were Professor Paul Bywaters (Coventry University), Dr Lisa Bunting (Queen’s University, Belfast). Professor Brigid Daniel (University of Stirling), Professor Brid Featherstone (Huddersfield University), Professor Kate Morris (University of Sheffield), Professor Jonathan Scourfield (University of Cardiff). £557,000 (April 2015-March 2017) www.coventry.ac.uk/cwip. ‘Child welfare inequalities’ is a new concept in the field of social care and is gaining traction and beginning to generate impact. The impact strategy embedded in the research design ensured that learning has international reach and influences practice and government policy, to varying extent, in the four UK countries. Academic impact has been achieved through the joint authorship of a number of papers. This research has a dedicated website and international network of followers online through JISCMAIL. See the dedicated website for information on outputs, including on-going publications.
In a recent Big Lottery/DRILL funded project I worked in partnership with Professor Anita Franklin and others to train and support a group of disabled young people to co-lead research into quality and rights in Education, Health and Care Plans. The young researchers, known as the RIP: Stars, developed a framework for practice based on their findings to ensure that quality and rights underpin the development and review of EHCP’s (www.ripstars.net). The RIP: Stars were also called to give evidence to Parliament during the Government’s Special Educational Needs and Disability Inquiry and their evidence features prominently in the long awaited report.
I co-led an interdisciplinary team of researchers in a series of projects (with Dr Geraldine Brown, Coventry University) that were commissioned by third sector organisations, with an aim of improving understanding of the design and delivery of prison based rehabilitative interventions (for men and women). This research has informed and impacted the practice of commissioners and deliverers of prison based rehabilitative interventions, through increasing understanding of the potential benefits for those engaged in rehabilitative programmes; identifying the significance of the relational, creating ‘humanising’ and reflective spaces and the role of effective collaborative working. The work has led to changes in the approach of practitioners working in prisons, has been used as evidence of good practice in Parliamentary debate https://goo.gl/VsWtLG, and is gaining in reputation in debates on ‘greening the prison’.
My research has been published in journals such as the British Journal of Social Work, Child Abuse and Neglect, Children and Youth Services Review, Child and Family Social Work, Children and Society, Global Childhood Studies, Journal of Children’s Services, Sociology of Health and Illness. Many of my research projects have been responsive studies, addressing contemporary policy issues. I have also emphasised knowledge transfer between research and practice, particularly in the field of children’s health, education and social care, publishing accessible key findings briefings and principles and articles in mediums read by practitioners (e.g. Care Knowledge, Prison Service Journal).
My vision is to further internationalise social justice research within SWCC and to strengthen on-going research which advocates a social model of health, well-being and child welfare, through publishing in peer reviewed and practitioner journals, supporting PhD and MA students and developing new research questions.
Currently I am working in partnership to address the following issues of social justice:
Funded by The National Lottery ‘Leaders with Lived Experience’ Programme and led by the London based Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) and Professor Anita Franklin (Portsmouth University), the RIP: Stars young researcher group are currently working with leaders from the Disabled People’s Movement to share experiences, stories and intergenerational learning to understand the important role that disabled people have played in creating their own history of change through activism; together they will create a graphic story of disabled people’s lives - past, present and future – as a resource for disabled young people.
There is much potential to further theorise child protection and safeguarding research in the field of child sexual abuse/exploitation/gendered violence. I am currently partnering with Kairos Women Working Together and Dr Geraldine Brown (Coventry University) to research and evaluate the ‘Feeling Safe’ project, funded by The National Lottery Community Awards. We adopt a social constructionist approach towards the categories of ‘child’ and ‘abuse/exploitation/risk/violence’ to uncover children and young people’s everyday lives and conceptualisation of what ‘risk’ may mean to them. We wish to understand CSA/E and ‘transition’ - from child/adult, children’s/adults social care - from the perspective of children and young people, whose voices have been largely absent in the drive to protect them.
I have extensive networks with the public and charity sector and have been highly successful in obtaining external funding. Through my commitment to extend the boundaries of social research I am driven by a passion to initiate change, to make a difference in the lives of children, young people and families that are marginalised, excluded and experiencing inequality, oppression or discrimination. Working in partnership with the commissioners of research my preference is for an action research approach to ensure that change becomes embedded and transformative.
I previously held a two year Visiting Fellowship at Stockholm University Department of Education and have an on-going collaboration with academic colleagues. In 2020 I was successful in obtaining QR funding to extend the existing collaboration with Stockholm University; I was a visiting speaker in the Department of Special Educational Needs, gave a lecture to ERASMUS students and submitted a collaboratively authored paper on child and parent embodied perspectives on children’s health to a leading journal.
I am External Examiner at the University of Central Lancashire for the MA Professional Practice with Children and Young People.
I am a reviewer for a range of sociology, childhood studies, youth and social work journals and for funders such as ESRC, NIHR, the Canadian Research Council.