Centre for Social Work Innovation and Research



Jeri DammanGillian Ruch The Centre Co-Directors are Jeri Damman





and Gillian Ruch


Sussex academic staff

The following were active members of CSWIR research projects and activities during the inaugural year:

Wendy Ashall (Anthropology)

Dr Laia Becares (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Saul Becker (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Janet Boddy (Education)

Professor Suzy Braye (Social Work and Social Care)

Dr Rachel Burr (Social Work and Social Care)

Dr Tam Cane (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Jackie Cassell (Brighton and Sussex Medical School)

Dr Henglien (Lisa) Chen (Social Work and Social Care)

Jeri Damman (Social Work and Social Care)

Dr Louise Gazeley (Education)

Dr Kristine Hickle (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Michelle Lefevre (Social Work and Social Care)

Feylyn Lewis (Social Work and Social Care

Barry Luckock (Social Work and Social Care)

Dr Reima Ana Maglajlic (Social Work and Social Care)

Dr Tish Marrable (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Jo Moran-Ellis (Sociology)

Dr David Orr (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Gillian Ruch (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Elaine Sharland (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Rachel Thomson (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor Charles Watters (Social Work and Social Care)

Professor David Weir (Informatics)

Dr Russell Whiting (Social Work and Social Care)

Visiting research fellows

Current CSWIR Visiting Research Fellow: 

Dr Chia-Lee Yang, Principal Engineer (Taiwan's National Center for High Performance Computing (NCHC)) 

Dr Chia-Lee Yang is a Principal Engineer at Taiwan's National Center for High Performance Computing (NCHC) and an interdisciplinary researcher blending social and computational sciences. Her work focuses on integrating data-driven approaches, including big data mining, Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM), and machine learning, to delve into public responses to disaster crises like COVID-19 and environmental pollution, with a particular focus on vulnerable populations. Dr. Yang is the principal investigator for several gender and technology research projects funded by Taiwan's NSCT. She played a pivotal role in developing the "COVID-19 Pandemic Map," a widely used open database with over 36 million views, maintained entirely by volunteers. She founded the Women in High-Performance Computing (WHPC) Taiwan chapter. Currently, she is engaged in research on gender and age bias in large language models.

CSWIR also hosted the work of a number of Visiting Research Fellows during our inaugural year from around the world:

Dr Somnoma Valerie Ouedraogo
British Academy Fellow. Impact of Political Conflict on the Adult Social Services in Burkina Faso. 


Dr. Fenghuaqin, School of Teacher Education, Nanjing Xiaozhuang University, China
Comparative study of child protection in China and England
March - August 2015

Dr Chris Hall, Durham University
Social Work communication in practice
June 2014- June 2017

Professor Randi Juul and Inger Sophie Hsuby, Faculty of Health Education and Social Work, Trondheim 
Social Education and Child Welfare Work Program
September –December 2015

Dr Mona Livholts, Linkoping, Sweden
Social Work in a Glocalised World
January – August 2016

Doctoral researchers

CSWIR supports social work doctoral research undertaken on the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) and PhD courses:

Current doctoral researchers

  • Millicent Ayeh-Danquah Koomson:
    Youth at risk of smoking and illegal drug use: a comparative study of use by immigrants in Sweden and UK
  • Leethen Bartholomew:
    Accusations of child spirit possession and witchcraft: Experiences and outcomes for non-accused children within the same family network
  • Victoria Bromley:
    The Road to Temporary Accommodation and the Identity of the Single mother
  • Claire Durrant:
    Understanding the emotional consequences of severe dyslexia and developing strategies for teachers to support children in mainstream education
  • Jenny Hewitt:
    How do UK young adults’ experience civic and political engagement in their everyday lives?
  • Evelyn Keryova:
    Exploring Children and Young People’s Critical Thinking: The Case of YouTube
  • Nesreen HA Munshi:
    Using virtual reality games at Kindergarten in Saudi Arabia
  • May Nasrawy:
    Exploring the impact of engagement in extracurricular or community art activities on well-being: The experiences and voices of young people in Jerusalem
  • Sushri Sangita Puhan:
    The social process of being adopted and becoming family- An exploration of adoption practice in India
  • Loreto F. Rodriguez:
    Experiences and understandings of psychotherapy for young children in Chile who have experiences sexual abuse
  • Paul Shuttleworth:
    A critical analysis of kinship care to inform social work policy and practice
  • Emma Sowe:
    Learning My Place: Exploring peer relationships and other influences on adolescent identities in diverse and diversifying UK schools
  • Roma Thomas:
    Doing Boy work? Young masculine subjectivities and professional practice

Recently completed

  • Simon Abbott
    Title: ‘How do Social Work Approved Mental Health Professionals use the law in action?’
    Simon’s research study focused on how social work Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) use the law in practice. The study explored the relationship between law and social work practice by interpreting meanings contained in case stories told by social work AMHPs about recent Mental Health Act assessments that they undertook. The study contributes to knowledge by illuminating how the use of law in practice is an inherently socio-relational undertaking, involving embodied practice. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus is used to make sense of participants’ accounts of the action that unfolds when they use the law. A further contribution is made to knowledge on legal literacy in social work, where there is little empirical research focusing on how social workers use the law, and still less on how mental health social workers use the law to consider compulsory powers under mental health legislation. The organisational factors impacting on how participants relate to the law are outlined and discussed drawing on legal consciousness theory, together with an account of how participants adapt to this, drawing on Lipsky’s concept of street level bureaucracy.

  • Rachel Clarke
    Title: ‘Living well with dementia: Sustaining psychological wellbeing in working family carers’
    With rising numbers of people diagnosed with dementia, the number of working carers (family carers who are maintaining employment alongside their caring roles) is likely to increase in the coming years. Linked to an ERSC-NIHR funded project (http://www.idealproject.org.uk), Rachel completed the first multidisciplinary and mixed-methods study on sustainable wellbeing of dementia working carers (DWCs) who are reconciling unpaid family care with employment. Her work comprised a quantitative analysis of secondary data from the IDEAL project, involving 1,238 working and non-working dementia carers, followed by questionnaire, artefact and semi-structured interview research with 27 DWCs. She developed a new working model of sustainability, reporting: (1) the psychological resources associated with sustainability for DWCs were related to high levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy as well as with low strain-based family-to-work conflict; (2) a more positive caregiving experience was associated with low levels of caregiving burden, relative stress and role captivity alongside high levels of caregiving competence and bonded relationships between people with dementia and DWCs; (3)sustainability was associated with high quality social relationships; and (4) sustained cognitive resources were related to bi-transferable work and care skills. Use of both problem-focused (i.e. time- management, instrumental support) and emotion-focused coping (i.e. emotional support, respite strategies) was essential for most DWCs to achieve a balance between roles. Effective coping strategies can inform policies and practice guidelines for care professionals (including social workers) to support the wellbeing of DWCs comprehensively and innovatively, and to assist DWCs in reconciling their roles for as long as possible. Rachel's research was funded by ESRC-NIHR and she was supervised by Dr Henglien Lisa Chen (Social Work and Social Care) and Professor Jennifer Rusted (Psychology).

  • Paul Dugmore
    In July 2019 Paul successfully defended his DSW thesis: ‘Acknowledging and bearing emotions: A study into child and family social work’ and was awarded an unconditional pass. The examiners - Professor Anna Gupta (Royal Holloway) and Barry Luckock (Sussex) - celebrated the assured and transparent way in which Paul defended his work, in which he illuminated and engaged critically with some very significant and sometimes troubling psychosocial dynamics in complex child safeguarding practice. Anna and Barry celebrated the ethical and methodological integrity of his fieldwork and data analysis. The conclusions reached add to a growing body of psychosocial research, addressed critically for the field. Paul’s research has enabled him to contribute to an agenda for change in the theory and practice of his discipline and profession, within this distinctive and compelling frame of reference. Paul was supervised by Professors Gillian Ruch and Michelle Lefevre.

  • Lorraine Ellames
    Title: ‘Dementia care training: The view of dementia care workers’
    Using a constructivist ontology and an interpretivist epistemology, this research investigated the views of residential care workers (RCWs) working with people with dementia about the training offered for their dementia care role with older people. Findings from thematic analysis showed that the care workers interviewed had very limited or no dementia training or assessment they could remember, and that training had generally been a negative experience. Lorraine was supervised by Dr David Orr and Professor Emerita Suzy Braye (Social Work and Social Care).

  • Risthardh Hare
    Title: ‘A realist evaluation of the implementation of a systemic therapy course in a statutory social work setting in relation to work with domestic violence’
    In October 2018 Risthardh successfully defended his critical realist evaluation of the claims of systemic thinking in social work, where domestic violence is a primary concern. External examiner Professor Stan Houston (Dublin) and Dr Russell Whiting (ESW) celebrated the 'really good job' of translation done by Risthardh and the 'really interesting' findings presented. They valued especially Risthardh's 'strenuous defence' of his challenging findings for social work practice and its theorisation, and the reflective capability they found in their very thorough examination of his work. Meanwhile, the findings from his DSW study are already having practice impact. Following their implementation in innovative projects in the London Borough of Greenwich, Risthardh is using the critical realist approach in his new post as Assistant Director in Kent, which requires the development of a more dynamic service-wide quality assurance approach for social work practice impact more generally. Risthardh's supervisory team was Barry Luckock (first supervisor) and Professor Elaine Sharland (second supervisor).

  • Tirion Havard
    Title: ‘Beyond proximity: the covert role of mobile phones in maintaining power and coercive control in the domestic abuse of women’.
    This research was a grounded theory qualitative study of twelve women who had experienced mobile phones being used as a technology of control within domestic violence. Since being awarded her Doctorate in Social Work Tirion has submitted two papers to international peer reviewed journals which have been co-authored with her main supervisor, Professor Michelle Lefevre. The first examines the women’s experience of surveillance through the phone from a Foucauldian perspective. The second re-visions the Duluth Power and Control Wheel to provide guidance to practitioners on risk assessment. Tirion’s second supervisors were Dr Lel Meleyal (first two years) and Dr Tish Marrable (remainder of studies).

  • Rachel Larkin
    Title: ‘Who Do You See? How Do Unaccompanied Young Women and UK Social Workers Construct and Understand Each Other in Practice Encounters?
    Rachel’s imaginative and courageous research used creative psychosocial methods to explore the experiences of young unaccompanied refugee women. It highlights the ways in which this particular group are constructed and the implications of their treatment for their social work policy and practice. Rachel’s research supervisors were Professors Michelle Lefevre and Charles Watters (both Social Work and Social Care).

  • Rachael Owens: 
    Title: 'Digging Down and Scaling Up: A psycho-social exploration of the Family Nurse Partnership'

    This was a collaborative doctorate between the University of Sussex and the Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) - a public health home-visiting programme for first time young parents - with the aim of discovering opportunities and obstacles for the FNP model’s operationalisation across micro, meso and macro system levels. Offering a counterbalance to the extant RCT studies undertaken about FNP,  Rachael ‘dug down’ into local practices, asking broad, existential questions about how the FNP model is understood and experienced. The study integrates a range of views that are not typically considered together within an organisational study: namely, those who use, deliver, design and commission services.
    Using data from ethnographic observation, interviews and focus groups within four FNP sites across England, Rachael utilised a psycho-social, critical real and social constructionist framework to conceptualise the FNP task as inherently paradoxical. She proposes that to understand FNP practice it is necessary to see it within a wider context in which younger parents are disempowered, stigmatised and marginalised in policy, public and professional spaces.  The research draws attention to opportunities for broadening the FNP model’s current methods by increasing collective responses that seek to change the hostile environment experienced by young parents, as a  sustainable and ethical route towards realising FNP’s aim of affecting global change.  Rachael is now working with the FNP National Unit to share her findings with the workforce.
    Rachael completed her PhD in March 2020. Her supervisors were Professor Gillian Ruch and Dr David Orr (both Social Work and Social Care).

  • Alberto Poletti
    Title: ‘The relationship between emotions and the working environment in two child protection teams in Italy and England: a psychosocial exploration’
    This psychosocial study utilised a multiple-case study approach to explore the role played by professionals’ individual characteristics, team dynamics and the broader emotional texture of the child protection system in shaping the emotional experiences of front-line practitioners. Fieldwork comprised observation of supervision, interviews with practitioners and managers, and group activities within two child protection teams, one in Italy and one in England. A key finding was that, if professionals are not adequately supported within their working environment, they may be left feeling doubly deprived at an emotional level, firstly from the nature of their undeniably challenging work and, secondly, through the imposition of an unresponsive working environment over which they have minimal control. Alberto was supervised by Professor Michelle Lefevre and Dr Tish Marrable (both Social Work and Social Care).

  • Joanna Rawles
    Title: ‘Educating for professional judgement: how social work students develop skills in practice.’
    Joanna’s thesis presented a hermeneutic phenomenological study into how social work students develop the skills required for professional judgement, an area in which there was little existing research. To explore this, she conducted semi-structured interviews constructed around critical incidents of learning on placement with 14 MSc Social Work students from a university in England who were at the point of graduation. The findings indicated that the development of these skills lay in the presence and interrelation of three domains: professional responsibility, facilitation of the professional voice and learner agency. Jo recommended that a re-appraisal of autonomy as relational, and a consideration of the value of autonomy-supportive learning and teaching, could prove instructive to understanding both the development of skills for professional judgement for social work students and the way in which this can be enabled. Joanna was jointly supervised by Professor Michelle Lefevre and Professor Emerita Imogen Taylor.

  • Makhan Shergill
    Title: ‘Making the transition from university to the workplace: the emotional experiences of newly Qualified Social Workers.’ 
    Makhan’s qualitative research study explored the subjective experiences of social work graduates in England as they transitioned from the university to their first professional social work role, identifying the role and influence of individual, cultural and structural factors in shaping this experience. The findings suggest that the emotional experience of transition is significantly influenced by a newly qualified social worker’s own early childhood experiences and personal dispositions, the availability of containing experiences within the workplace and the influence of the neoliberalised workplace environment. Thus newly qualified social workers’ emotions can be considered to be both psychosocially and socially structured within a political context. Makhan’supervisors were Professor Michelle Lefevre and Dr Reima Maglajlic (both Social Work and Social Care).

  • Louise Sims
    In December 2018 Louise Sims successful defended her doctoral thesis ‘What can be learned from the practice encounter in adoption support social work? Louise’s examiners commended her for the 'exceptional quality' of the thesis. Louise was awarded an unconditional pass. Barry Luckock and Professor Gillian Ruch (both Social Work and Social Care) had the pleasure of supervising Louise’s research.