Thank you for taking a look at my page! Your help could really make a difference to this research. I am a student who has almost completed her PhD through self-funding, and I am hoping that you would help me get to the finish line. So please read on and check out the exclusive rewards available for your time and kindness.
How it all began…
The original idea for this PhD grew out of my time as a child protection social worker in the North East when I noticed that the voices of the people I worked with were largely invisible in policy and research.
I quickly realised that there were no sources of funding for research that sought to understand the experience of early help safeguarding services from the perspective of those living it – the children, their families and the professionals around them. It was a problem because the media presented ideas that seemed to story a shameful ‘Broken Britain’ that was evident through the poverty porn on Channel Five and articles in right-wing newspapers rather than 'real' experience on the frontline. According to these popular (but inaccurate) stories, social work seemed to be constructed for people who were ‘not like us’ – it was taken for granted that service users and their families were pathologically different, as opposed to being ordinary people who were dealing with issues such as powerlessness and poverty.
I decided to self-fund this research after several unsuccessful attempts to raise a loan or grant. I was a newly qualified social worker at the time and it meant large sacrifice but even with this, the research has (reluctantly) been paused for financial reasons, several times. My passion for improving how young people and their families are helped has driven each step (and each pound) so far. I started my PhD six years ago (on a part time basis) and I would like to be able to finish and submit the work. My hope is to fund outstanding tuition fees and the costs of publication through this campaign, but I am also enthusiastic about this platform as a way to raise consciousness of some of the issues that the research covers.
What’s the point?
Perhaps the most asked question about this project has been “why?”
Well, I didn’t become a social worker for the great pay and high-status reputation it has(!) My PhD won’t lead to a promotion or an increase in my income once it’s finished but the point of doing this goes to the heart of why I became a social worker in the first place - to make a difference through critically rigorous, ethical practice. Continuing to ask questions through research of this kind is important because challenging the unhelpful, taken for granted assumptions about the most vulnerable people in our society is crucial. Services should develop in response to how people live and what they need in an evidence-based way. The current picture, of service reform following a backlash of fear and anger when a child has died or been seriously harmed, is short-sighted. A strong emotional response to these cases is not surprising, but change is more meaningful and effective when it arises out of a close look at what works and what doesn't work on the safeguarding frontline.
In other words, playing the 'blame game' after a child has died or been seriously harmed does not make services more effective or helpful. Understanding what works and what does not, through research, does this. In a nutshell, without supporting academic social workers, keeping children safer is harder to do.
My research looks at how four young people, their families and the teams of professionals around them thought and felt about their experiences of early safeguarding help. It uses Q-methodology and follow-up interviewing to understand experience from their point of view. Q-methodology is a radical approach that allows people to express their viewpoints and stories in a way that treats them as ‘whole people’ rather than scores on tests.
Part of the reason for Crowdfunding the last part of this research was to raise awareness of the importance of adopting a critical methodological approach to work with young people and their families. I would welcome any questions and comments about the process and results through this platform and/or through social media.
What is extra special about this PhD?
This project comes from experience of working with some of the most vulnerable families in our society at a time of austerity when services were squeezed. It presents the personal narratives with the hope not just of capturing what ‘it’s like’ but also about making recommendations for change.
This project is also made great because in many ways, it’s a starting point. I am going to share results as they emerge and also provide a forum for questions about the topic, the radical methodology and the process. Social work doesn’t happen to ‘bad people’ or the ‘undeserving’ or the ‘hopeless’, it simply happens to people. I hope you will become as passionate as me and take the opportunity to share your experiences and hear those of others… and for the super keen, maybe learn a new method or something about how children’s social work functions.
Who am I?
I have always lived in the North East (and will never leave)! My first two degrees were in psychology, but I also undertook a sociology degree before I trained to be a social worker (and after an extended family member was taken into care). I have been a Durham student for a much longer time than I intended, but have always balanced this with 'proper work'. I initially worked in a safeguarding and child protection team before moving into a therapeutic children's social worker role in a local authority. Following this, I worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in the NHS. I am currently a forensic social worker, working alongside adults who have a diagnosis of autism and learning disability. For me, the point of theory and research is its application to relieve suffering and support people to find ways to live that are more helpful.
But for my (very tolerant and understanding) family, this research wouldn’t have survived very long. Shortly after I started my PhD, I discovered I was going to have my first baby – which was wonderful, but my fees disappeared down the baby aisle. Two years later, I had another little boy (equally wonderful, and equally fee-diverting) who was diagnosed with autism and learning disability when he was two years old. Being a parent added another dimension to my role as a social worker and the experience of undertaking this project. (My youngest son is the reason why 5% of any money contributed by you will be donated to the autism provision at his special educational needs school, which has helped him bloom into the legend that he is.)
How is the money being spent?
The money raised will pay my remaining university fees and allow me to prepare and bind the thesis. If I was fortunate enough to be overfunded, then I would use this money to attend conferences and present the findings as widely as I could in order to raise the value of research in social work. My passion for this work is only limited by lack of funds so please have a look at the rewards section to thank you for pledging.
Thank you, Rachel x
The quotations on the bags (and other items) reflect my lifelong commitment to celebrating autism spectrum condition, the fiercesomeness of women, the social constructionist perspective of the research (nothing really is either good or bad) and the power of social work to improve the world in a humanitarian-orientated way. I would love to hear what you come up with for the 58mm personalised badges, keyrings, bottle-opener keyrings and mirrors - although I would be pleased to use the ones below. I can't post outside of the UK I am afraid.
Intellectual rewards are free, as they should be. Contact me to discuss any aspect of the research, am happy to consider a visit to do a presentation - and will let you know when I am next doing this at Durham University. Q-methodology is a bit like marmite, but I am obsessive, so be warned ;-)
Finally, don't forget to link in with my Twitter and Facebook pages!