During my masters I applied for and was successful in gaining ESRC 3+1 funding for my PhD research. This funded my one-year MA in Social Research Methods (Social Work) and three year PhD. Informed by Foucauldian and feminist theoretical positions, my PhD explored how child neglect is ‘performed’ by social work professionals and parents who had received professional intervention as a result of concerns about neglect. Specifically, it focused on definitions of neglect, discourses of responsibility, assessment and interventions.
“My interest in the subject of child neglect, and social work responses to it, comes from my own experiences of practice.”
Whilst on placement at a family centre as part of the Masters in Social Work course, I supported families who were receiving services as a consequence of concerns about neglect. I became aware of the gendered nature of support and the way in which responsibility was allocated in these cases. Professionals also appeared to be powerless to address poverty and the adverse socio-economic circumstances that appeared to be bound up with the cases I worked on. I became interested in examining whether the issues I saw in these cases were replicated in the broader literature, and I wanted to undertake further research to contribute to the field. In particular, I was motivated to give voice to parents who are at the receiving end of services for child neglect and professionals, who have to respond to complex family situations within a wider policy and socio-economic context that can often make this task more challenging.
Following the completion of my PhD I worked on a range of relatively short-term research projects. I decided that I wanted to apply for research positions that matched my research area and interests. One of the biggest challenges I had was finding a research post in the geographical area that I lived at the time. Fortunately, I was successful in gaining a Research Associate position on the ‘Functional Family Therapy (FFT) Project’ in a city where I had existing social networks. The aim of the study was to explore barriers and facilitators to implementing FFT in a community setting, from the perspective of families and practitioners.
Although I have worked on research projects that have focused on different areas of social work research, I am committed to producing research that incorporates the perspective of families and hard-to-reach groups, including those that access health and social care services.
“I also strongly believe in the importance of research that has a positive impact outside the academic context both for service users and at a practice level.”
I was able to secure my current research post after a career break following the birth of my son. The study I am now involved in aims to develop and evaluate a new intervention to help patients with psychosis overcome social isolation and improve quality of life. I feel that it is crucial to incorporate the perspectives of people with mental health problems into current research, including views on current services and in the development of new interventions. Taking a holistic understanding of mental health, I value the importance of building trusting relationships, social support and the role of community in improving quality of life and mental health.