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PhD projects for research students

Social work and the government Prevent Agenda

This proposed research project will explore the implications of the Government’s Prevent agenda and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 for adult safeguarding or child protection. The Act defined the roles of several authorities, including Education, Health and Social Care in preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. It introduced new concepts, procedures and interventions through which adult safeguarding and child protection takes place when concerns regarding radicalization are raised. In June 2018, the government published its CONTEST 2018 strategy document that reaffirms, continues and develops the direction of Prevent. The 2015 Act had implications for many thousands of employees, service users and carers in the public, private and third sectors (HO, 2018). These dramatic changes were only evaluated internally by the Home Office and the evaluations were never published. While there is a growing number of publications which are critical of the Government’s Prevent agenda, only few are based on empirical data, and none of them on data relating specifically to adults.

These facts highlight the urgent need for empirical data about the intended and the unintended consequences of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 on adult safeguarding in the UK, as well as its wider social and ethical implications.

To collect such empirical data, the proposed project is likely to be based on mixed methods and will include a survey, semi-structured interviews, participant observations and case studies. This details of the proposal will be finalized with the PhD applicant. The project has the following aims:

  1. In relation to social care and health professionals involved in adult safeguarding:
    • To ascertain how confident these professionals feel about their understanding of their duties under the 2015 Act and about their ability to comply with these duties
    • To discover how motivated they are to comply with these duties
    • To explore their perception and understanding of radicalization and their confidence in discussing with service users their religious and non-religious beliefs, values and culture
    • To examine professionals’ perception and understanding of the Government’s Prevent agenda and its current implementation
  2. To explore the language, processes, procedures and systems involved in implementing the Prevent Duty
  3. To examine case studies of service users through which we will also gain service users’ perspectives
  4. To draw on the findings to provide recommendations for policy and practice

Social workers and body practitioners: an inter-professional exploration

This PhD project will examine how social work practitioners who are also body practitioners – dancers, yoga teachers, physiotherapists, massage therapists, choreographers etc - implement and integrate their heightened awareness of the human body into their social work practice. The project will be based on a mixed-method approach and will combine participant observations, semi-structured interviews and an online questionnaire. 

Social Work has traditionally emphasised its affinity with the "social model" which promotes understanding the human behaviour in connection with the wider social context. As part of this attempt, social work distanced itself from the medical model. This seem to have cost social work in its tendency to ignore in most cases the human body.  

While the academic literature on the connection between social work and the body has developed during the last decade, it is still very limited. Issues related to the body are rarely taught as part of the social work curriculum, and the body is rarely an integral part of social work interventions. Despite these omissions, we can learn about the possible benefit and contribution of focusing greater attention on the human body, through social work practitioners who are also body practitioners. We can assume that these individuals will have a heightened awareness of their bodies and the bodies of their service users and through them we might be able to learn about how such greater awareness contributes to their practice, resiliency and wellbeing.