The IASR brings together research within the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, producing work which both anticipates and shapes key changes in policy, administration and practice in the area of social care, child care and protection, work with vulnerable young people and youth justice.

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  • Identifying and responding to alcohol misuse in memory clinics: current practice, barriers and facilitators

    Thake, Anna; Wadd, Sarah; Edwards, Kim; Randall-James, James; University of Hertfordshire; University of Bedfordshire; South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Bedford CMHT for Older People (Emerald, 2015-05-18)
    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore current practice, barriers and facilitators to identifying and responding to alcohol problems in memory clinics. Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire sent to professionals in 55 memory clinics in England, Wales and the Isle of Wight and two focus groups with professionals from three memory clinics in England. Findings – Only 1/35 clinics that responded to the questionnaire was using a standardised alcohol screening tool but all attempted to gain some information about alcohol use. Without screening tools, practitioners found it difficult to determine whether alcohol use was problematic. Barriers to identification/intervention included cognitive impairment, service-user being “on guard” during assessment, presence of family members/carers, time constraints and a perception that brief interventions were not within the remit of memory clinics. Facilitators were obtaining visual clues of problem drinking during home visits and collateral information from family members/carers. Research limitations/implications – Focus group participants were recruited through convenience sampling and a small number of professionals took part. This means that the findings may be subject to selection bias and limits the generalisability of the findings. Practical implications – Memory clinics should provide guidance and training for practitioners on how to intervene and respond to alcohol misuse. Further research is required to determine the most effective way to identify alcohol problems in people with cognitive impairment and how to deliver brief alcohol interventions that take account of cognitive deficits. Originality/value – This is the first study to examine alcohol screening and interventions in memory clinics and identifies a need for guidance, training and further research.
  • Alcohol screening in people with cognitive impairment: an exploratory study

    Randall-James, James; Wadd, Sarah; Edwards, Kim; Thake, Anna (Taylor & Francis, 2014-12)
    Objective: Alcohol misuse can coexist with and/or contribute to the development of cognitive impairment in the older adult population but continues to be underestimated and undetected in older people. This study aimed to examine the feasibility and acceptability of routine screening for alcohol misuse in a small sample of older people with cognitive impairment receiving services in memory clinics. Methods: This study employed a qualitative and exploratory design, using a convenience sample of individuals attending a memory clinic in England. Ten service users older than 65 with a diagnosis of cognitive impairment (i.e., mild cognitive impairment or dementia) took part in the study. Individuals who met inclusion criteria were invited to take part in an hour-long interview, which included the interviewer administering the alcohol screening tools. Interview transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: Participants were able to engage with the screening tools and could, with assistance, complete them in a collaborative and timely manner without distress. All participants reported that these tools were acceptable as part of the clinic assessment. Administering the screening tools was not time-consuming or difficult, making their use feasible within the memory clinic setting. While there were some challenges (e.g., arithmetic, recall, language problems), these challenges could be overcome with the aid of the person administering the screening tool using standardized techniques for assessment administration. Conclusions: Routine screening for alcohol misuse in older people with cognitive impairment receiving services in memory clinics is feasible and acceptable. The process of completing alcohol screening tools with older adults receiving services at memory clinics may increase awareness of the potential impact of alcohol on cognitive functioning and provide practitioners with an opportunity to educate service users about the ways that their drinking is affecting their memory. Several techniques to facilitate completion of screening tools were identified. Future research should evaluate the reliability and validity of alcohol screening tools with older people through corroborating screening results with other assessment methods.
  • Women Against Fundamentalism: stories of dissent and solidarity

    Dhaliwal, Sukhwant; Yuval-Davis, Nira (Lawrence and Wishart, 2015)
  • Gang-involved young people: custody and beyond: a practitioner's guide

    Factor, Fiona; Pitts, John; Bateman, Tim (Beyond Youth Custody, 2015)
    A significant amount of research into the onset of, and involvement in, gangs, gang crime, and serious youth violence has already been carried out. However, there is a limited amount of material available on desistance from gang crime, the resettlement of gang-involved young people and, in particular, how their period of incarceration and return to the community might best be managed. This practitioner’s guide examines how knowledge about the specific needs of gang-involved young people and the factors relating to desistance from gang-related crime can inform effective practice with current and former gang-involved young people during their time in custody and beyond. This guide uses the current literature, interviews with policy makers and practitioners and focus groups with professionals and young people who were either serving, or had recently served a custodial sentence for a gang-related offence. The full research report by Fiona Factor and Professor John Pitts with Dr Tim Bateman upon which this briefing is based, along with full details of the references used, is available at
  • Gang-involved young people: custody and beyond

    Factor, Fiona; Pitts, John; Bateman, Tim (Beyond Youth Custody, 2015)
    This report is based upon a review of the English language literature on the rehabilitation of gang-involved young people aged between 10 and 25. The information in the literature review is augmented by interviews with policy makers and practitioners. The fieldwork was undertaken between October and December 2014. 27 professionals attended focus groups in the south-east and north-west of England at which findings from the literature review and the challenges faced by practitioners were explored. Additionally, interviews with resettlement professionals and young people were conducted at six sites. The young people were either in custody or had recently served custodial sentences for gang-related offences. 19 young people aged between 16 and 25 were interviewed, three of whom were female. In addition, eight interviews were conducted with professionals responsible for resettlement programmes both in custody and the community.
  • Systemic inquiry: innovations in reflexive practice research

    Simon, Gail; Chard, Alex (Everything is Connected Press, 2014-10)
  • A-Z of attachment

    Wilkins, David; Shemmings, David; Shemmings, Yvonne (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015-07)
  • The recruitment, assessment, support and supervision of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender foster carers: an international literature review

    Cosis-Brown, Helen; Sebba, Judy; Luke, Nikki (University of Oxford, 2015-02)
    Electronic databases and websites covering the international literature were used to identify 20 published papers (covering 19 studies). Those identified were from the UK, USA and Australia. Comparisons across countries are subject to limitations of different cultures and services. Most of the research exclusively about LGBT foster care, rather than research that merges fostering and adoption, has developed in Australia where, in contrast to the USA and UK, adoption is rarely the chosen option for permanence for children in public care. Studies identified for the review were published since 1996 and were all written in English. Most of the studies focused exclusively on the perceptions of established foster carers’, less often on perceptions of social workers and one included young people’s perceptions. The studies used a range of methodologies from in-depth interviews and focus groups to larger scale surveys using questionnaires. Study samples ranged from 1 to nearly 400. No studies were identified in the review that included interventions subjected to evaluation using comparison or control groups. Most studies adopted a retrospective design, seeking the perspectives of established carers.
  • The role of the supervising social worker in foster care: an international literature review

    Cosis-Brown, Helen; Sebba, Judy; Luke, Nikki (University of Oxford, 2014-09)
    Foster carers play a central role in providing family based care for foster children. Enabling, developing, and supporting foster carers to care for foster children in a way that provides security, stability, love and a strong sense of identity and belonging involves foster carers themselves being professionally supported, both emotionally and practically. This literature review focuses on ‘social work support’, and more particularly the role of the supervising social worker in providing that support and supervision. The discrete role of what we are refer to for the purposes of this literature review as the ‘supervising social worker’ (known by many others terms across the world), to provide supervision and support to foster carers, is a relatively recent development. Alongside the professionalisation of foster care, there have been changing views of the relationships and duties of supervising social workers and the introduction of criteria for supervision and inspection of fostering services. The expectations of the supervising social work role are set out in Standard 21 of the Fostering Services: National Minimum Standards in England (Department for Education, 2011). The supervising social worker acts as the conduit between the fostering household and the fostering service, and is distinct from the role of the foster child’s social worker. The role of the supervisory social worker is complex since it encompasses both the support and supervisory aspects of work done with the foster carer. For example, if a child protection matter is raised by a foster child’s social worker, then the supervisory nature of the relationship between the foster carer and their supervising social worker becomes more prominent whereas when a foster carer experiences a family bereavement, the support relationship may take over. Foster carers report consistently that this relationship is very important to them and it has been shown to be a factor in the recruitment (in terms of the beliefs of potential carers about what support will be available) and retention of carers (Sebba, 2012). It is therefore of interest that the supervising social worker role has attracted little research or scholarly attention, perhaps because of the lack of well-developed models of supervising social work. This review of the international research addresses the topic of the role of the supervising social worker. Foster care is considered in its broadest terms, including family and friends (kinship) foster care. The review was undertaken in order to consider the following three questions: What do supervising social workers do, and what are the components of supervision and support they offer foster carers? What contributes to effective supervision by social workers of foster carers? Does the quality and/or quantity of support and supervision offered to foster carers by supervising social workers impact on: outcomes for foster children; stability of placements; retention of foster carers? Electronic databases and websites were used to identify 22 studies (24 related papers) from the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Comparisons across countries are subject to limitations of different cultures and services. Studies identified for the review were published since 1996 and were all in English. Fourteen of the 22 studies focused exclusively on foster carers’ perceptions, the others focusing on social workers, caseworkers, foster family resource workers, fostering service managers and in one study young people, usually in addition to foster carers. The studies used a range of methodologies from in-depth interviews and focus groups to larger scale surveys using questionnaires. Study samples ranged from 7 to nearly 2000 with only five studies reporting on data from samples of fewer than 30 participants. No studies were identified in the review that included interventions subjected to evaluation using comparison or control groups. Most studies adopted a retrospective design.
  • Involving people with dementia in a systematic review

    Wade, Nicolette; Fisher, Mike (Jessica Kingsley, 2015-09-21)
  • The impact of ‘being assessed’ by a disabled children's team: a personal reflective account

    Wilkins, David; London Borough of Enfield (Wiley, 2015-02)
    The body of ‘service user’ literature confirms the value of parental perceptions of child and family social work and the insight parents and others can offer. This paper lends my voice to the literature regarding parental perceptions, inspired by the work of Pamela Davies, who provided a personal account of the impact of a child protection investigation. This paper draws upon my experiences of being a father of two ‘disabled children’ and undergoing an assessment of need. This paper seeks to draw attention to issues of choice, power imbalances and the role of expertise. My personal experience of undergoing an assessment was that it was an emotionally fraught process, for the duration of the assessment, our family stress increased and we had a sense of having to ‘battle’ for the support we needed. As such, my personal experience fits well with the wider body of literature, which highlights the increased stress of caring for children with additional needs, the challenges of ‘fitting’ disabled children into the frameworks used to assess all children and the difficulty for parents and professionals in distinguishing between ‘normal’ parenting responsibilities and the additional responsibilities of caring for a disabled child.
  • Finding the right match: a survey of approved adopters’ experiences of agency support in the linking and matching process

    Dance, Cherilyn; University of Bedfordshire (University of Bedfordshire, 2015-03)
    This research study was commissioned by Adoption Link to explore approved adopters’ experiences of agency support in their search for a child or children who they felt able to parent. The impetus for the research came from Adoption Link’s awareness, as a result of contact with their users and posts on various adoption forums, of some level of dissatisfaction with the ways in which processes for linking and matching were operating for approved adopters. By way of setting the scene for the study findings, this introduction looks briefly at the policy background as it relates to linking and matching in adoption; the current situation, particularly in England, regarding the numbers and profiles of waiting children and approved adopters; provision of adoption agency services and how links and matches are achieved. It is important to note that much of what is covered in this introductory section applies to England only. While there is some shared legislation across the four countries of the UK , each implements elements of distinct legislation and policy in relation to looked after children and adoption and up to date statistics for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are rather difficult to come by. Although the policy context in different parts of the UK might be distinct, adoption practice in relation to children in care is similar. The focus here on England is in part pragmatic – because information about the situation in England is easily available and in the public domain –it also reflects the fact that the majority of responses to the survey reported were from adopters in England and space precludes a detailed discussion of the similarities and differences between countries.
  • Some ethical and legal challenges in researching groupwork practice

    Preston-Shoot, Michael (Whiting and Birch, 2014)
  • Learning from the research process: discussing sensitive topics as a cultural outsider

    Manders, Gary; Galvani, Sarah (Taylor & Francis, 2014-11-19)
    This paper explores the sensitivities and cultural complexities of engaging in research about substance use with a Sikh Punjabi community in England, from the perspective of cultural outsiders. The objective of the research was to explore the feasibility of developing a Community Alcohol Support Package (CASP) within the community, where existing alcohol service provision was felt to be limited, using ethnographic research methods. Tensions between a strict religious prohibition against drinking and a cultural acceptance of a heavy drinking culture created the conditions for the research and its particular challenges. This paper reports on the process of conducting the research and the transferable lessons for social work teaching and practice. Two key methodological challenges are highlighted together with reflections on how they were addressed: first, the problem of engagement and negotiating access to the community in focus; second, the challenge for outsiders of tuning into the socio-political context of the community and the power dynamics within it. Overcoming these challenges required high levels of sensitivity to the concerns of the community, while maintaining research integrity, and demonstrable openness and honesty in the course of developing research relationships. The lessons for social work education and practice are discussed.
  • Protecting asylum seeking children on the move

    Kohli, Ravi K.S. (Université de Poitiers, 2014)
    This paper considers the ways that children seeking asylum can be assisted to make sense of movement in their lives as forced migrants, and to find a sense of “home” in a foreign country after arrival, even if their stay in that country is temporary. It explores the proposition that movement happens in three dimensions – as geographical displacement, as the passage of time, and as psychological and maturational change. While acknowledging the utility of using the 1951 Refugee Convention as a defence against children’s persecution, the paper suggests that the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child offers a wider framework for considering asylum seeking children’s life-long well-being. Within the UNCRC’s design, an example of a Guardianship service in Scotland is used to track movement across three domains of practice – when processing an asylum claim, providing welfare, and regenerating social networks. The paper considers that offering protection is not just a shield against persecution, but also an embrace that makes children feel “at home”.
  • Religion and parenting: ignored relationship?

    Godina, Lidija; University of Bedfordshire; University of Bedfordshire; Luton UK (Wiley, 2014-11)
    Even though the social work profession has been increasingly sensitized to the spiritual needs of those that they are working with, recent history has demonstrated that professionals lack the knowledge and skills needed for understanding those who are subscribing to strong religious beliefs. The research reported in this paper draws on a qualitative study that examined the perceived caregiving practice of parents from the Seventh-day Adventist faith community associated with the conservative Protestant sub-culture. Twenty-five participants aged 20–50 were invited to recall their experiences of being reared by practicing Adventist parents in the UK. An integrative phenomenological analysis yielded a number of themes that shed light on the relationship between religion and parenting. This paper will focus on the three key ideas that emerged: parenting was influenced by beliefs that parents held; a combination of warm and strict parenting was found with some evidence of stricter upbringing amongst black respondents; responses to parenting reported varied between acceptance and discomfort. The study gave valuable insight into individuals' experiences of a religious upbringing received within a secular environment.
  • The Social Care Institute for Excellence and evidence-based policy and practice

    Fisher, Mike; University of Bedfordshire (Oxford Journals, 2014-12-04)
    This paper reviews the lessons for evidence-based policy and practice (EBP) arising from the work of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), a government-funded agency established in 2001 to improve social care in the UK. The paper describes a ten-year programme developing an inclusive approach to what counts as knowledge, and the challenges in ensuring that knowledge is relevant to improving practice in social work and social care. These challenges include reviewing what counts as evidence in EBP, changing the relationship between EBP and practice, and recognising the scientific value (as well as the moral imperative) of including the knowledge held by people who use services. In methodological terms, the work includes developing systematic qualitative synthesis to take account of a broader range of evidence and economic evaluation appropriate to social care. The paper concludes with a discussion of some implications for international debates about the role of evidence-based policy and practice.

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