SGSSS-DTC/Skills Development Scotland PhD +3/1+3 Studentship

Safe and Together? Exploring the implications of a risk paradigm for children and families in the context of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse services in the UK are increasingly dominated by a risk management paradigm (McLaughlin et al., 2016). Risk assessments categorise adult victims as high or low risk, and the services and protective mechanisms placed around families are premised on this categorisation. This focus on risk of physical violence can lead to insufficient attention paid to the wider needs of child and adult victims, failure to consider broader family dynamics (like coercive behaviour) and prioritisation of risk management over care. The Safe and Together model emerged to redress these difficulties, by equipping professionals with strategies to keep children living safely with their non-perpetrating parent. Although this model has been adopted widely in the UK, there is a very limited evidence base for the programme.

Value This is a fully-funded full-time studentship, financed by the ESRC and City of Edinburgh Council. The full scholarship covers payment of course fees, maintenance stipend (approximately £14,777 per annum), and research allowance. The studentship is available as a '1+3' or as a '+3' opportunity.
Deadline 30th April 2018

Applications are invited for a full or part-time PhD scholarship at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling. The scholarship is available to support either a 3-year research degree, or a 4-year programme incorporating a Masters course followed by 3-year research degree.

This research will interrogate how this model affects the pathways that children and families affected by domestic abuse follow. It will explore the service response to families who have experienced domestic violence and abuse by focusing on the services delivered by the City of Edinburgh Council. This local authority introduced Safe and Together in 2014. The project will analyse the pathways and outcomes that Safe and Together delivers for children and their families in this local authority area. Using a pluralistic qualitative design, the research will explore two central questions: “What are the implications of a risk paradigm for children and families in the context of domestic abuse?” and “How does Safe and Together contribute to addressing holistic needs of children and their families?”

Hosted in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling, the PhD student will be ideally positioned to develop advanced skills in qualitative research and research with vulnerable groups during the project, whilst concurrently engaging with experts in gender-based violence, social policy and social work. The research will be supervised by Professor Jane Callaghan and Dr Fiona Morrison at the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection.  The student will be encouraged to develop and disseminate research outputs and will have opportunities to develop their professional skills such as with advanced training opportunities and chances to gain experience of academic activities including teaching opportunities. The project’s research is a priority area of social policy and social work and on completion the PhD programme the student should be extremely well placed to secure further academic and research positions.

Research Questions 

The research will explore the perspectives of children and their families on the support that they receive when domestic violence is experienced. The overarching research question is:

“What are the implications of a risk paradigm for children and families in the context of domestic abuse?”

  • What pathways to support do children and families navigate, when domestic violence and abuse is identified?
  • What do children and families feel is the appropriate support to receive when domestic violence and abuse is identified?
  • Is the timing and nature of the support offered to children and families appropriate, accessible and responsive?
  • How do specialist and universal services that support children and families work together, and what role do these services play in family recovery?

Methodologies

Context

The project will explore the service response to families who have experienced domestic violence and abuse by focusing on the services delivered by the City of Edinburgh Council. This local authority introduced Safe and Together in 2014. The project will analyse the pathways and outcomes that Safe and Together delivers for children and their families in this local authority area.

Data collection

The project will used a pluralist qualitative approach (Frost, 2011). An in-depth practice analysis will be conducted with social workers and other practitioners. We will explore how the team around the child functions in practice, how they understand and respond to children’s needs and how they work to ensure safety and care for children and young people (n= 10 cases). Interviews, supported by creative methods (mapping and drawing), will be conducted with 15 children and young people, and with 10 adult carers, about their experiences and perceptions of their needs and of the services offered. Focus groups will also be conducted with statutory and non-statutory partners involved with the delivery of Safe and Together. An anonymised case review will also be undertaken of 30 consecutive referrals to the Safe and Together programme, tracking process and outcomes over an 18month period to explore the pathways to care that families follow.

Data analysis

Qualitative data will be analysed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clark, 2006). This will enable the PhD student to rigorously analyse the material generated by interviews, focus groups and case analysis, building clear themes that are transparently linked to the data.

Anticipated project outcomes

This research will provide clearer insights into children and young people’s pathways through services when domestic abuse is identified. This has both academic and practice benefits. It will make a significant contribution to the underdeveloped evidence base on the effectiveness of interventions for children exposed to domestic abuse. It will also contribute to the limited academic literature on Safe and Together, a model that enjoys growing popularity in Scotland, across the United Kingdom and internationally. The research offers a significant contribution to broader debates around risk management vs care based models of support for families who have experienced domestic violence and abuse. Whilst there has been some evaluation of risk based models of assessment (Robbins et al., 2014, 2016; McLaughlin et al., 2016) research has generally focused on the predictive validity of the instruments used (e.g. Messing and Thaller, 2013), and has not generally explored the implications for service planning and care pathways. This research has tended to focus on service provider perceptions and processes, and has attended less to the experiences of services users. In particular, children and young people’s experiences of pathways from identification through services has been largely overlooked. The proposed project seeks to fill this gap. For City of Edinburgh Council, greater understanding of the outcomes Safe and Together achieves for children and their families, will enable more informed decision making in relation to the effectiveness of the Safe and Together model as a way of managing risk and facilitating service planning.


Availability

Practical arrangements

This is a fully-funded full-time studentship, financed by the ESRC and City of Edinburgh Council. The full scholarship covers payment of course fees, maintenance stipend (approximately £14,777 per annum), and research allowance. The studentship is available as a ‘1+3’ or as a ‘+3’ opportunity. The +3 route involves a 3-year research degree programme and requires that the candidate has an MSc qualification that meets ESRC training requirements. The ‘1+3’ route incorporates a one-year MSc programme (MSc Applied Social Research, or MSc Applied Social Research and Social Research pathway), followed by a 3-year research degree programme.

The studentship will be is based in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling and will commence in September/October 2017. This studentship will lead to a PhD in Social Policy, from the University of Stirling.

The supervisors of the project are Professor Jane Callaghan and Dr Fiona Morrison. A further advisor, Anna Mitchell from City of Edinburgh Council, will liaise regularly on the project.

The studentship is administered by the Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership, on behalf of its funders, the ESRC and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Training and career development opportunities

Hosted within the Faculty of Social Sciences, the student will be provided with facilities, including their own desk in an office, and full access to all software and research equipment. The student will participate in the faculty’s internal research group ‘Child Wellbeing and Protection’. This research group runs regular seminars, research discussions and training events, and will provide opportunities for the student to meet and benefit from advice from a wide range of staff and other research students with relevant expertise. The Faculty also has a long history of co-funded studentships (e.g. CASE awards, collaborative studentships, impact studentships), and of working with non-academic audiences (e.g. through internships).

Subject specific training will be available to the student on a one-to-one basis with the supervisors and with other academics within the Faculty, and through their participation in internal and external subject-specific training events. These will include: Research Design and Process; Quantitative Data Analysis; Social Network Analysis; Qualitative Data Analysis; Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research; and The Nature of Social Enquiry.

External training events offer a particularly promising route to training development in this respect, since there are numerous high-quality training programmes available across the University sector to which the student would be encouraged to engage (e.g. NCRM short courses; summer school training programmes; ad hoc workshops)

Generic training will be available primarily through the Stirling Graduate School and/or the Scottish Graduate School and will include:

  • presentation and critical engagement skills through postgraduate, research group and seminar series events;
  • writing for publication (through peer mentoring, specialist courses and writers retreats);
  • working with non-academic audiences through the Keyword seminar series;
  • general research training on themes such as project management, writing, and research ethics provided by the Stirling Graduate Research School;

In the later stages of their project, the student will be encouraged to disseminate their research at national and international meetings and to submit publications to peer review journals.


How to apply

Candidate requirements and eligibility

The successful applicant will have:

  • A degree level qualification in a relevant subject (an appropriate Masters level degree is required for direct entry to the +3 PhD programme)
  • A track record of excellent performance in previous academic studies
  • A demonstrable interest in the research areas (e.g. child wellbeing, gender-based violence)
  • A commitment to ethical research with vulnerable groups and the methodologies involved in the project
  • Skills in time management and completion of work to deadlines

Candidates must meet ESRC eligibility criteria (see http://www.esrc.ac.uk/skills-and-careers/studentships/prospective-students/). The full scholarship (covering payment of course fees, maintenance stipend (approximately £14,777 per annum), and research allowance, is available to candidates with ‘settled status’ in the UK. Candidates from other EU countries but without ‘settled status’ in the UK are eligible for the payment of course fees and research allowance, but are not qualified to receive the maintenance stipend. 

Applications

Applications should include a covering letter stating their interest in this particular studentship; a full CV including the names of two referees (at least one referee should be an academic); a transcript/record of detailed grades achieved during previous university studies; a sample of the candidate’s written academic work; and a short summary (maximum 500 words) written by the candidate that explains how they would approach the project’s research. The sample of academic work should be up to 2000 words, comprising a piece of work (or an extract from a longer piece of work), that the candidate has submitted in their previous University studies, and that demonstrates their competency as a prospective PhD candidate. The short summary of how the candidate would approach the research should refer to the project proposal and will be used to assess the applicant’s knowledge of the research field and of relevant methodological issues. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview in Stirling or via online methods.

Closing date: 30th April 2018. Interviews with shortlisted candidates will be arranged in person or virtually at dates to be confirmed in the near future after the application deadline.

Interviews will be held mid May 2018

Applications should be sent, by post or email, to:

Jennifer Anderson
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling
FK9 4LA

socscipgr@stir.ac.uk  


Contact

Further information

Candidates are welcome to make informal enquiries about the academic project, which should be directed to Prof Jane Callaghan (jane.callaghan@stir.ac.uk) or Dr Fiona Morrison (f.morrison@stir.ac.uk)

This scholarship was added on 05/04/2018

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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