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Centre for Social Work Research (CSWR)

student carrying social work books

About us

The Centre for Social Work Research (CSWR) aims to:

  • Make a significant contribution to the generation of knowledge in social work
  • Widen the participation of social work practitioners in research
  • Develop innovative methodologies and new thinking about critical issues in social work practice and social policy enhance social work research and influence practice, professional training and policy
We do this by:
  • Developing and undertaking relevant ‘practice near’ research projects
  • Generating relevant, relationship-based practice knowledge
  • Disseminating research findings and sharing learning through written publications, conferences, seminars and training programmes
The Centre offers a distinctive ‘practice near’ psychosocial approach to social work practice and social policy and to understanding individuals, society and organisations.

CSWR is unique in the UK in providing this perspective, harnessing the psychosocial, multidisciplinary tradition to initiate creative social work research.



On the 18th January 2017 we are holding a Parliamentary Roundtable Debate and Formal Launch of our BME and Migrants Advisory Group: Safeguarding Children and Young People. This will be hosted by Sir Keir Starmer QC, MP for Holborn & St Pancras. This is an open event, for more information and to register click here


CSWR staff are actively involved in practice, consultancy, teaching and research. They write widely in books and articles; convene and contribute to conferences, lecture series and workshops in the UK and abroad.

  • Professor Stephen Briggs - Director of the Centre for Social Work Research, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL

Deputy Director

  • Dr Jo Finch - Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Kimberly Detjen - Senior Lecturer, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Dr Robert Johns - Principal Lecturer, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Dr Stuart Stevenson - Senior Lecturer, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Mark Wheeler - Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Cass School of Education and Communities UEL
  • Dr Dawn Ludick - Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Laura Hamblin-Opaluwa - Postgraduate Researcher, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Fatuma Farah - Postgraduate Researcher, Cass School of Education and Communities, UEL
  • Professor Andrew Cooper - Professor of Social Work, Tavistock Clinic / UEL - email:

Collaborators and Partners

PhD Students

Current Students Supervised or Co-Supervised by CSWR Members

Laura graduated from UEL in 2008 with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology with Criminology and then went on to work as a Research Assistant within the School of Psychology focussing on research themes surrounding Abnormal Behaviour and Forensic Psychology including projects on the aeteology of fraud and pathological gambling. Laura's passion in research terms surrounds the intersection between culture and behaviour. Thus her current research, her PhD, focusses on Child Abuse linked to accusations of Witchcraft or Spiritual Possession (WorSP). In this she seeks to give a voice to those affected in order to lead improvements to policy and practice both in terms of safeguarding, police investigations.

 To contact Laura please email

Fatuma is a trained, qualified and UKCP (UK Council for Psychotherapy) registered psychotherapist. As well as community support lead for the FGM charity FORWARD

Her research interests are in culture, Islamic religion and faith related child abuse. She also has interests in parenting and related cultural differences.

Fatuma's PhD thesis is on “Examining Perspectives on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) among affected communities in the United Kingdom and she is currently writing an article entitled “What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and what is it doing in education”. This is to be published in the CASS School of Education and Communities Journal: Research in Teacher Education.

For the last five years Fatuma have given multiple presentations on FGM at a variety of conferences; such as, the annual conference for the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health in Leeds 2016, and is shortly to present at the FGM conference organised by OSCA (Ocean Somali Community Association) that holds Somali Week within the month of October (Black History Month).

Fatuma also delivers educational seminars on FGM in a variety of settings including; 3rd year Clinical psychology students at the Tavistock Centre and community events.

To contact Fatuma Farah please email:


A key aspect of health and social care in the 21st century has been the increasing importance‘of evidence-based’ practice and policy making.  

The CSWR was established to enhance the evidence base for relationship-based practice and understand underlying processes in practice and policy making.

The Centre’s research is strongly influenced by UEL’s commitment to ‘relationship based’ social work practice and the Tavistock Clinic’s tradition of exploring the underlying processes of practice from a psychoanalytic and systemic perspective.  Making sense of these processes enhances practice and extends the evidence base for policy initiatives.

Adapting the Tavistock tradition of research to contemporary issues, CSWR aims to develop and apply innovative methods that promote ‘practice near’ research, including:
  • Observational approaches: the application of the Tavistock model of observation applied to individuals, groups and institutions
  • Application of a case study method to explore aspects of practice through in-depth analysis of accounts of clinical, therapeutic sessions and ‘work discussion’ (group discussion of a case or work situation)
  • Applying narrative interview methods including the biographical narrative interview methods to achieve in-depth and different perspectives of practice and policy issues
  • Involvement of service users and front-line practitioners in the design, development and undertaking of research projects
Practice-near research makes use of deep reflexivity, and transparent theorisation to make sense of ‘thick’ descriptive data. It provides potential to connect the micro, in depth and specific with the macro, broad-brush and generalised. The approach can be used on its own, or within larger studies to provide another dimension.

Research Themes

Apologies... This part of our website is under redevelopment. In the meantime below is a brief overview of the areas of research we are involved in currently;

  • Improving the safeguarding of children experiencing or at risk of abuse linked to faith or belief in Witchcraft or Spiritual Possession.
  • Influencing factors in the motivation to carry out Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
  • The PREVENT Agenda
  • Domestic Abuse
CSWR is contributing to the current debates within social work education through the development of research projects which address key areas including practice learning, assessment of suitability to practice and assessments of passing/failing standards

    Practice learning and education
    Assessing failing social work students in practice learning settings;
    Narrative research methodologies; voice centred relationalanalysis.

Current projects
2013 Exploration of the role of placement assessment panels in social work education (funded by HEA).

Finch J. & Poletti, A. (2013) "It’s been hell." Italian and British Practice Assessors’ Narratives of Working with Struggling or Failing Social Work Students in Practice Learning Settings in European Journal of Social Work

Finch J. and Taylor I (2013) Failure to Fail? Practice Educators’ Emotional Experiences of Assessing Failing Social Work Students, Social Work Education, Volume 32, Issue 2, 2013, pages 244-258

 Apologies... This part of our website is under redevelopment. In the meantime below is a brief overview of the areas of research we are involved in currently;

  • Infant, adolescent and adult mental health
  • Infant observations
  • Early infant - mother interactions and patterns of attachment



Our research impacts widely through training events and workshops for practitioners in the UK and internationally, and influencing policy through, for example, membership of NICE Clinical Guideline Development Groups.

Current Projects

Systematic Review: The effectiveness of psychoanalytic psychotherapy as an intervention for the prevention of suicide, and the reduction of self-harm/repeated self-harm Authors: Stephen Briggs (1), Gopal Netuveli (1), Antigone Gkaravella (1,3), Patricia Kangogyere (1), Mark Goldblatt (4), Reinhard Lindner (5), Nick Gould (2), 1: University of East London, UK; 2: University of Bath, UK, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, UK, 4:Harvard University, USA, 5: Hamburg Eppendorf University, Germany

Why the review is important:
•    Reducing suicide risks and repeated self-harm is a high health and social policy priority
•    Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a widely practised intervention
•    A few clinical trials of the effectiveness of psychoanalytic psychotherapy for reducing suicide and self-harm have been reported but to date there has been no systematic review of this intervention

A protocol has been developed, as for the Guidance for Developing a Cochrane Protocol (2011).  Click here  

Initial findings were reported at the European Symposium for Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour 2016 Click here

Evaluation of the Place of Calm, Grassroots Training and the Counselling Partnership ‘Survivors of Suicide’ Counselling Service (East Sussex)

During 2016, CSWR undertook an evaluation of a new service, the Place of Calm, (commissioned by East Sussex County Council), for people in a suicidal crisis. The Place of Calm takes an innovative approach to meeting the needs of people who are suicidal, offering a stay of up to 24-hours, to provide practical and emotional support, using a Peer Support approach. The final report concluded that the Place of Calm offers a helpful and distinctive model for people in suicidal crises, which is de-stigmatising, non-medical, and highly valued by people who stay there.
Currently, we are evaluating two linked suicide prevention projects: Grassroots,  which provides training for frontline staff working with people who are suicidal, and the Survivors of Suicide Counselling Service.

Understanding adolescent suicide groups

Group suicidal behaviour amongst young people can have devastating consequences for young people, families, practitioners and communities, and there are concerns that it may be increasing, influenced by online media and reported increasing rates of self-harm. It is crucial to know more about which young people are involved, how suicidal behaviour spreads and how practitioners can effectively intervene. In collaboration with Cardiff University and CAMHS practitioners, we have conducted a qualitative research study of how practitioners identify and work with risks of suicide in adolescent peer groups. An article reporting the findings and follow-up research are currently in preparation. The findings to date were reported at reported at the European Symposium for Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour 2016 Click here

See also: M. Goldblatt, S Briggs, R. Lindner, (2015) Destructive Groups: The Role of Projective Identification in Suicidal Groups of Young People, British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31, 1, 38–53


See details on the Recent publications (post 2006).


CSWR has been selected by the University as an impact case study  submitted for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the Social Work and Social Policy Unit of Assessment. In due course this case study will be uploaded here. The REF decision making panels will assess the 'reach and significance' of impacts on the economy, society and/or culture that were underpinned by excellent research conducted in the submitted unit, as well as the submitted unit's approach to enabling impact from its research.

Improving practice and influencing policy
Through working closely in partnership with practitioners, our research aims to provide benefits benefits to practitioners through training and consultation and influence policy debates.

Recent policy impacts include: a House of Lords debate on the Children’s Bill adopted the findings and conclusions of the report on Safeguarding Children’s Rights (Briggs et al 2011)

CSWR’s evaluation of the Trust for London’s initiative “safeguarding children’s rights: exploring issues of witchcraft and spirit possession in London’s African Communities” was referred to in debate in the House of Lords over amendment 243 of the Children and Families Bill 2013. Following full debate, with a significant role taken by Baroness Howarth, who chaired the advisory group of the Trust for London initiative, the findings from our report were agreed with and adopted - that the best protection for children who are attributed properties of witchcraft or spirit possession is through application of the child protection and the international framework for children’s rights frameworks rather than through specific legislation.

As was commented in the debate we agree that there continues to be need to further research the issue, regarding prevention and assessing the effectiveness of interventions by practice organisations for identifying and responding to cases where attributions of witchcraft and spirit possession are suspected.

CSWR works closely with many UK practice organisations in statutory and third sectors, including CAMHS in Leicester, Tower Hamlets and Kent, Kids Company, Victoria Climbie Foundation, Mothertongue ethnic counselling, Maytree; a sanctuary for the suicidal.

Training and learning programmes

CSWR is linked with the undergraduate (BA) and postgraduate (MA) qualifying programmes in social work, and a range of postgraduate post qualifying programmes, including the Professional Doctorate in Social Work, which includes an MA and the Advanced Award, the PhD in Child Protection, and the MA in International Social Work. There are additionally opportunities to undertake individual PhD studies.

Social Work Qualifying programmes
UEL provides a three year BA in Social Work and, in partnership with the Tavistock, a two year MA in Social Work.

Tavistock/UEL: (Courses and professional training/Tavistock course/by subject).

Contact us

For further details about the research activities of CSWR: