Dr Kathryn Mackay


Social Work Colin Bell Building, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA

Dr Kathryn Mackay

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About me

About me

I qualified as a social worker in 1984 and have worked in England and Scotland. After six years as a generic social worker, I specialised in mental health work and then became a community care team manager. I joined the University in 1997 as a teaching fellow and then became a lecturer in 2004, in order to pursue writing and research.  I am currently the Programme Director for the MSc. in Applied Social Studies and pathway lead for the post qualifying certificate in adult services, support and protection. My PhD by publication used the concepts of citizenship, discretion, choice; and ethics of care and of justice to explore how social workers support or limit service users' rights when they are subject to adult protection legislation. This has led to an interest in and publications about the possible impact of devolution on social work law and policy; choice in the context of harm; Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities. It has also led to a two year study, just completed, that explored the perspective of older people of safety and vulnerability in everyday life.

I have experience of being a carer for family members and of receiving short -term support myself. This has further motivated me to want to explore bigger questions around the intensification of market and managerial practices; and of the focus on the 'rational' and 'responsibilised' self in health and social care policies. My experience and concern is that these have increased the dissection of citizens into varied labelled components of need and the delivery of services into multi-staged processes. These produce unintended consequences that are often hidden and uncosted in evaluating the success of any policy initiative or discrete intervention programme.


BA in Public Administration with an Option in Social Work

MSc.in Applied Social Research
University of Stirling

Professional qualification

Certificate of Qualification in Social Work
Robert Gordon University

Research (2)

Adult social care; mental capacity; adult support and protection; adult safeguarding; social work education; voice, choice and control; and resilience and vulnerability from a life course and strengths based perspective. Human Rights and Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities. Methodologically I am increasingly using participative methods to work with practitioners and services users as co-researchers. Knowledge exchange


Exploring the place of values in the new social work degree.
Funded by: Iriss

An assessment of the operation of the Named Person role and its interaction with other forms of patient representation
PI: Dr Kathryn Mackay
Funded by: Scottish Government

Outputs (27)



Lonbay SP, Mackay K & Montgomery L (2023) Guest Editorial [Special Issue: Perspectives on safeguarding older people: Voice, choice, and control]. The Journal of Adult Protection, 25 (3), pp. 101-104. https://doi.org/10.1108/jap-06-2023-082

Book Chapter

Mackay K (2010) Vulnerability, autonomy, capacity and consent. In: Davis R & Gordon J (eds.) Social Work and Law in Scotland. 2nd ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 136-151. https://www.macmillanihe.com/page/detail/Social-Work-and-the-Law-in-Scotland/?K=9780230276314


Mackay K & Marshall M (2006) Thinking about taps: Reflections on dementia and disability. Alzheimer's Care Quarterly, 7 (3), pp. 203-207. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?partnerID=yv4JPVwI&eid=2-s2.0-33750472346&md5=7e88d418685bd33b76ba87a88fe1c5dc

Research Report

Mackay K, Wilson M, Richie A & Brady J (2005) Shared Approach to Performance Assessment: Final Report on the Demonstration Projects. Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services; Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services; Scottish Institute for Excellence in Social Work Education. Glasgow: Scottish Institute for Excellence in Social Work Education. https://www.iriss.org.uk/sites/default/files/sieswe-ia-performance-assessment-final-report-2005-08.pdf



These follow my research interests: legal and ethical aspects of working with adult; human rights; ageing; disability across the life course; self- directed support and similar polices; and judgement and decision- making in adult protection, or safeguarding, practice.