Two children playing with blocks

Social work & social policy Children, young people & families

Our research staff bring together expertise in:

  • childhood studies
  • education
  • social work
  • social policy
  • youth & migration

Most of our researchers have a background in practice. We work with a range of funders and partners, including the Scottish Government, local authorities and related voluntary sector organisations and international partners.

Many of our team are based with the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) and the Centre for Excellence for Looked- After Children in Scotland (CELCIS). 

Research topics

Children & young people's everyday experiences

Children and young people’s access to and experiences of statutory services; children’s experiences of place; young people and community involvement; volunteering and youth.

Historic abuse & adults who experienced care as children

The experiences of adults who were placed in care as children, including the long-term implications of historic abuse for contemporary policy and practice.

Improvement in services for children & young people

Reviews of current policy and practice; multi-agency working; working with practitioners to improve practice and use of evidence in services.

Marginalised youth & social inequalities

The impact of poverty on children’s opportunities; disabled young people and their families; young people not in education, training or employment; looked-after young people; homeless youth.

Children & young people’s rights

Children’s participation in society; children’s voice; United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its application into policy and practice; engagement of children through research.

Children & young people’s health & well-being

Children’s access to health services; mental health and youth; inequalities in health and how these impact on children’s life chances; parenting, experiences of loss and change, particularly bereavement, children and health promotion.

Ethnic minority children

Migrant children; underachievement and ethnicity; ethnic minorities’ access to health and leisure; inclusion of ethnic groups through services; Eastern European migrants, including Roma groups.

Methodological & ethical issues in doing research with children & young people

Participatory research methods; involving children and young people in consultation; use of visual methods and arts in research with children; children’s voice; ethics in research with children and youth.

Evidence-based practice & sustainable change in policy & practice

Uses of evidence to inform service delivery and systemic change in services; multi-agency working and co-production of knowledge; evidence informed practice and policy.

Our staff

Claire Burns, head of evidence and policy implementation, CELCIS, has worked in a range of social work posts in children and families settings. She has a particular interest in improvement and implementation approaches to change and innovation and is currently studying for a postgraduate qualification in Implementation Science at Trinity College Dublin.

Graham Connelly is interested in the wellbeing of looked-after children and young people (children involved with the care system). He has published many research articles and reports about the education of children in care, including several with colleagues in CELCIS.

Jennifer Davidson, director of CELCIS, has served on national and international committees related to children’s services and was a founding member of the US National Campaign for the Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Moyra Hawthorn is a research lecturer in CELCIS. Her recent research has focused on the historical abuse of children in public care, and ensuring that the voices of disabled children are heard in research about their lives.

Gavin Heron is a qualified social worker and teaches on the undergraduate and postgraduate social work qualifying courses. His research interests focus on teaching and learning, student assessment and feedback practices and equality.

Andrew Kendrick, professor of residential childcare, has carried out a wide range of research on looked-after children in residential and foster care, child protection and child welfare. He is currently working on a number of projects focusing on the experiences of adults placed in care as children, including the historic abuse of children in care.

Claire Lightowler is the director of the CYCJ. She specialises in supporting the use of knowledge, evidence and research across policy and practice.

Kenny McGhee is interested in the effectiveness of interventions and services for looked-after young people and in improving outcomes for them into adulthood.

Daniela Sime has expertise and research interests in education, equality and social justice in relation to children and young people. Her research promotes children’s rights and a justice agenda that addresses social inequalities, especially in relation to traditionally marginalised groups.

Laura Steckley is currently working with Graham McPheat on an HEA-funded project looking at threshold concepts or threshold areas of practice in residential child care/child and youth care.

Nina Vaswani is research fellow in the CYCJ. Her primary research interest is the experience of loss and grief in children and young people, especially among disadvantaged young people such as those involved in offending, or who are in care.

Vicki Welch is a senior research fellow in CELCIS. Her main areas of expertise are looked-after children, disabled children and their families; service integration and interprofessional experiences; universal and specialist provision.

Emma Young is a research assistant in CELCIS. Her research background is within criminology and sociology, and her previous research includes a study of the experiences of fatherhood and identity during and after incarceration, for which she won the Howard Leagues John Sunley Prize in 2014.

Our PhD students

James Davies: James is funded by a joint studentship sponsored by Volunteer Development Scotland and Strathclyde's Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences. Thesis title: Volunteering experiences of young people in disadvantaged areas in Scotland.

Samina Karim: Samina is funded by a Strathclyde scholarship and is studying the concepts of forgiveness and transitional justice in the context of the historic abuse of children in care.

Dorota Szpakowicz: Dorota is funded by a studentship sponsored by the Capita partnership with the University. Thesis title: Supporting interventions for promoting the reintegration of young people not in education, training and employment (NEET) through the use of mobile technologies.

Adrienne Reilly: Adrienne is working for the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and is carrying out a part-time PhD studying the role of memorial in relation to Ireland’s experience of dealing with the legacy of historical abuse.

Gillian Wright: Gillian is also working for the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and is carrying out a part-time PhD focusing on the impact of the Troubles on children in care in Northern Ireland, addressing issues of religion, identity and regimes of care.