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Staff within the social work team at Ulster University are engaged in research with practitioners and services users in Northern Ireland and internationally.

We aim to support research awareness in undergraduate students and research skills through our post qualifying training. For example, each year we support social work practitioners to undertake literature  reviews and research projects relating to their areas of practice.

The social work team produce high quality research outputs and contribute to international networks relating to identified areas of practice.

We aim to:

  • Ask critical questions about how professionals make decisions, asses risk and apply evidence across a range of areas including adult safeguarding, child protection, probation and mental health.
  • Provide evidence around workforce wellbeing for social work and social care professionals, using a range of research questions, and utilising complex qualitative and quantitative methods, including statistical analysis of data drawn from international, national, and regional sources.
  • Promote research mindedness and evidence-based practice within the social work workforce.
  • Inform our undergraduate and post graduate teaching with current research findings.

Our research falls under the following main themes:

  • decision making and risk in probation, child protection and adult social care;
  • resilience amongst social work professionals;
  • intimate partner violence;
  • addiction issues in migrant populations
  • family involvement in youth justice
  • understanding capacity in children with learning disabilities;
  • personal educational plans for children in care;
  • children’s rights;
  • social work education

Our Impact

The DARES research cluster (Decisions, Assessment, Risk and Evidence in Social Work) provides a biennial international symposium and an annual lecture series. These events are attended by many social workers in leadership roles in Northern Ireland. School staff also collaborate with researchers and research centres across the Faculty, University and internationally.

Additionally, Ulster University are associated with the International Federation of Social Workers, and Bath Spa University (Centre for Health and Cognition) on a Global Study of Social Work working conditions to understand the context for practice for social workers globally.  This is the first global study to examine the environment for social work practice and the unique challenges for workers on this scale.

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Our researchers work in partnership with social workers, social work employers, the Health and Social Care Board, Northern Ireland and the Health and Social Care Research & Development Department and Northern Ireland Social Care Council to respond to the evolving research needs of the profession. We also engaged in cross-disciplinary research and national and international collaborations in pursuit of social work research goals. We also work in close collaboration with social work academics in the island of Ireland in relation to social work education and research via the Social Work Education and Research Forum.