Personal profile

Personal Statement

I came to the University of Strathclyde in 2001 as Professor of Residential Child Care in the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care. Before this I was Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Dundee. I have carried out a wide range of research on children in care, child welfare and child protection. I have also been involved in a number of government inquiries and reviews on residential child care and safeguarding children in care. My current research is focused on two areas. I am working on the outcomes of children and young people in residential child care and the role of relationships in residential care. I am also engaged in a number of projects related to the historic abuse of children in care and the needs of adults who experienced care as children.

Our work on residential child care at the University of Strathclyde was highlighted by Social Work panel members of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) as being world leading and contributing to real change in policy and practice (  ).

I became Head of the Glasgow School of Social Work in 2006 and, following Faculty restructuring in 2010, I was Head of the School of Social Work and Social Policy until August 2015. 

From 2013 to 2019, I chaired the Scottish Human Rights Commission InterAction Review Group, which facilitated the InterAction on Historic Abuse of Children in Care. The Review Group involved survivors of abuse, providers of care services, Scottish Government, SHRC and CELCIS. The InterAction led to a number of commitments to address the needs of survivors of historic abuse in care, culminating in the Scottish Government Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Act 2021.

In 2018, I was appointed Professor Emeritus.

Expertise & Capabilities

  • residential child care
  • looked after children
  • child protection
  • historic abuse
  • research and evaluation methods

Teaching Interests

My teaching is closely related to my research and knowledge exchange activities. I have contributed to a range of social work qualifying and post-qualifying programmed and taught on looked after children, child protection, comparative social work, historic abuse and research methods.

Research Interests

I gained my PhD in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 1984. Since that time my research interests have focused on children in care, child protection and child welfare. My research has focused on two main areas: outcomes and experiences of children and young people in residential and foster care, and safeguarding and protecting children in care and the historic abuse of children in care. My research has included studies of decision-making in child care, the outcomes of residential and foster placements, mental health in residential care, the outcomes of secure accommodation, and comparative studies of residential care. I have been involved in a number of government inquiries on safeguarding children in care and historic abuse. I have undertaken studies of safer recruitment in residential social work services and physical restraint in residential care. My current research includes studies of the history of residential and foster care in Scotland, and the needs of adults who have experienced residential and foster care as children, including those who have been abused in care.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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