I consider myself a social worker in the broadest sense, in which 'social work' is a collective enterprise involving a broad range of professions, 'unqualified' staff and volunteers, and people who need social support to lead rich and fulfilled lives. To some extent this is a reflection of my working life up to this point.
Before training as a social worker in the early 1990s, I worked in a number of non-professional roles in psychiatric hospitals and volunteer settings. After qualifying, I worked predominantly in the voluntary sector, with organisations such as Oxfordshire Mind, the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (now Rethink) and the Revolving Doors Agency. In the 2000s I managed a local charity that helped people experiencing mental distress to take control of their lives. It’s been my experience that most people affected by long-term illness and disability have the desire and ability to solve their own problems. Much of my work is about supporting this process.
My main work role shifted from front-line practice to research in 1997, then to management in 2001, and then into teaching from 2010. Throughout this period I have remained in front-line practice to some extent, currently through the social enterprise Community Glue which I helped to found. My current role in the social work team involves teaching on undergraduate and postgraduate modules, carrying out small research projects, and supporting students in practice learning ('on placement').
Teaching and supervision
- Working with Teams, Groups and Communities (Module Leader)
- The Policy and Law Context of Social Care (Module Leader)
- Theory, Assessment and Intervention with Adults (Module Leader)
- Dissertation (Module Leader)
- Applied Research Methods (Co-Teacher)
In the summer of 2017 I completed a programme of research looking at how peer networks support personal budget users, for which I was awarded an M.Phil. degree in 2019. This links closely with my teaching interests (see above) but also with my work with Community Glue, a small local community organisation I helped to found in 2010.
My professional background is in mental health, and I retain a strong interest in this and related fields (including drug and alcohol work, youth work, offending and housing/homelessness). I am interested in the broader policy strands that underpin developments in these fields, both in the UK and internationally.
In 2019-20 I will continue to teach about social policy and social work. This is a fascinating if worrying time to be looking at the impact of policy, with Brexit, austerity and a rapidly changing political landscape combining to impact on practice in unpredictable ways. With local authority adult services under ever-increasing financial pressures, councils are once turning to communities to find their own solutions. This has created opportunities as well as risks for social workers, with some interesting new community models emerging. I will also be continuing to lead the postgraduate dissertation module, and teaching research methods. We are hoping to encourage more students to take the opportunity to carry out empirical research alongside local provider organisations, helping them to support their clients more effectively.
Previously, I have carried out research relating to ‘user-involvement’ in mental health services and in health and social care research, developing outcome measures that reflected the real priorities for service users and informal carers. I was the Principal Investigator (though we didn't use that term) on a 3-year evaluation of an arrest-referral scheme for people with mental health problems in contact with the criminal justice system, and led a number of small-scale studies looking at related issues.
Memberships of professional bodies
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- Registered Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council SW28304
- Member of the British Association of Social Workers