The unit was established in 2003 and is nationally and internationally known for its work on the interface between law and social work, on needs mapping and outcomes for service users, and on the involvement of ‘experts by experience’ in research.

Recent Submissions

  • 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)
  • 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.
  • Some ethical and legal challenges in researching groupwork practice

    Preston-Shoot, Michael (Whiting and Birch, 2014)
  • 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.
  • The New York statement on the evolving definition of practice research designed for continuing dialogue: a bulletin from the 3rd International Conference on Practice Research (2014)

    Epstein, Irwin; Fisher, Mike; Julkunen, Ilse; Uggerhoj, Lars; Austin, Michael J.; Sim, Timothy; Silberman School of Social Work; University of Bedfordshire; University of Helsinki; University of Aalborg; et al. (SAGE, 2015-04-22)
    This Statement on Practice Research is a work in progress. It emerges out of deliberations from three international conferences on defining and operationalizing practice research. It seeks to capture both a process and outcome in which practitioners, researchers, service users, and educators collectively engage in a negotiated process of inquiry. One of the goals of this form of research is to place equal emphasis on improving practice and improving services. Practice research also seeks to rebalance the power relations in terms of integrating the voices of service users, service providers, service researchers, and instructors preparing future and current service providers. This third statement emerges out of the most recent international conference in New York City (2012) and continues the construction of the social science and social philosophy foundation of practice research. It seeks to expand the dialogue on practice research to include more international voices while also searching for linkages with the evolving process of defining the mixed methods approach to evidence-informed practice. This Statement provides a platform for the 4th International Conference on Practice Research planned for Hong Kong in 2017.
  • Self-neglect policy and practice: research messages for managers

    Braye, Suzy; Orr, David; Preston-Shoot, Michael (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2015)
  • Self-neglect policy and practice: research messages for practitioners

    Braye, Suzy; Orr, David; Preston-Shoot, Michael (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2015)
  • Self-neglect policy and practice: key research messages

    Braye, Suzy; Orr, David; Preston-Shoot, Michael (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2015)
  • Towards explanations for the findings of serious case reviews: understanding what happens in self-neglect work

    Preston-Shoot, Michael (Emerald, 2016-06-13)
    Purpose The purpose of this paper is to draw on systemic and psychodynamic theories to subject published serious case reviews (SCRs) involving self-neglect to a deeper level of scrutiny, in order to understand how complex contexts impact on self-neglect work. It also updates the dataset of self-neglect SCRs and accompanying thematic analysis. Design/methodology/approach Psychodynamic and systemic ideas are applied to the content of published SCRs in order to understand how different contexts – societal, legal, organisational, professional and personal – impact on and are influenced by work with adults who self-neglect. Further published reviews are added to the core dataset, with thematic analysis updated using four domains. Findings Thematic analysis within and recommendations from SCRs have focused on the micro context, what takes place between individual practitioners, their teams and adults who self-neglect. This level of analysis also commonly extends to how organisations have worked together and how Local Safeguarding Adults Board (LSABs) have supported and scrutinised their collaboration. This level of analysis enables an understanding of local geography. However, there are wider systems that impact on and influence this work, especially law and the societal context. If review findings and recommendations are to fully answer the question why, systemic analysis should be extended to appreciate the influence of national geography. Research limitations/implications There is still no national database of reviews commissioned by LSABs so the dataset reported here might be incomplete. The Care Act 2014 does not require publication of reports but only a summary of findings and recommendations in LSAB annual reports. This makes learning for service improvement challenging. Practical implications Answering the question why is a significant challenge for safeguarding adults reviews (SARs). Different approaches have been recommended, some rooted in systems theory. The theoretical formulations here extend the lens of systemic analysis on the different contexts that influence how practitioners work with adults who self-neglect and simultaneously are shaped by that work. This adds to the practice, management and organisational evidence base for working with adults who self-neglect but also shines the analytic lens on legal and policy mandates. Originality/value The paper extends the use of systemic theory for understanding and learning from practice with adults who self-neglect and additionally offers psychodynamic formulations to appreciate what happens within and between practitioners and their organisations. The paper therefore contributes new perspectives to the methodology for conducting SARs. It also extends the thematic analysis of available reviews that focus on work with adults who self-neglect, further building on the evidence base for practice.
  • Systemic inquiry as a form of qualitative Inquiry

    Simon, Gail (Everything is Connected Press, 2014)
  • Beyond evidence-based policy and practice

    Fisher, Mike; University of Bedfordshire (PKP Publishing Services Network, 2013-01-01)
    This paper concerns the impact of social work research, particularly on practice and practitioners. It explores the politics of research and how this affects practice, the way that universitybased research understands practice, and some recent developments in establishing practice research as an integral and permanent part of the research landscape. While focusing on implications for the UK, it draws on developments in research across Europe, North America and Australasia to explore how we can improve the relationship between research and practice.
  • Systemic inquiry as a form of qualitative inquiry

    Simon, Gail (Everything is Connected Press, 2014-10)
  • Beyond the spoken word

    Simon, Gail (Karnac Books, 2014-04)

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