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Informing Professional Interventions group

Work within the Informing Professional Interventions group covers four main areas; drugs and alcohol policy and services, the changing face of professionalism; gender & sexualities in social care and social work; and families and well-being. Across all areas we subject health, social work, educational and criminal justice interventions and services to critical scrutiny, and investigate how they address social justice issues.

Our work also includes critical investigations into the interrelationship between the state and major public sector professions and of the changing face of professionalism and professional learning in the 21st century.


Our aim is to subject the relations between policy and public sector professional work across a number of different areas (health and social work and education) to critical examination.


Work is strongly interdisciplinary involving social policy, social work, nursing and healthcare, and education. Many researchers in this group have professional backgrounds in these areas.

Drugs and alcohol policy and services

The first focus of investigation is into drugs and alcohol policy and services, lead by Betsy Thom and Rachel Herring. Work in this area includes:

  • Development of service delivery, including changing professional behaviours Examination of community based approaches to addressing alcohol-related harms
  • The transmission of social norms regarding drinking among young people and the implications for prevention
  • European policy on alcohol and drugs
  • Historical and contemporary analyses of 'stakeholders' in European alcohol policy

Their work makes theoretical contributions to: critical understandings of the factors driving systems change in service delivery and to theories of change as applied to professional behaviour: a critique of the ideological basis of the drive towards 'evidence' based policy and practice; the understanding of the emergence and evolution of concepts (e.g. binge drinking) from a social constructivist perspective; the development of cross national perspectives on, and methods of, policy analysis.

The changing face of professionalism

A second focus includes investigations into the interrelationship between the state and major public sector professions and of the changing face of professionalism in the 21st century. Pan-European approaches to policy and intervention analysis have also been undertaken. This work is lead by Carmel Clancy, Rena Papadopoulos, Peter Ryan and Michael Traynor. Work in this area focuses on:

  • Issues in the preparation of professionals particularly concerning cultural competence and investigations into the possibilities of 'profiling' and student and professional performance
  • The rise and impact of managerialism on professional accountability and identity
  • Critical analysis of workforce transformation (incl the rise of assistant practitioners) and the configuration of services
  • Service user experience and involvement (in service delivery)

Gender and sexualities in social care and social work

A third focus is on gender and sexualities in social care & social work (Trish Hafford-Letchfield). One area of particular policy focus has been lesbian and gay fostering. This work deconstructs the discourses surrounding social work and anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice. The areas of theoretical development are particularly related to work with older people, adoption fostering and social work and religion.

Families and well-being

A fourth area of work concerns 'families and well-being'. McDonald has led the international Families And Schools Together intervention based on family stress and family systems theory. The programme has been widely endorsed, partly due to the strength of evidence of its effectiveness, and achieved a high profile.


EU, Department of Health, major charity funders as well as local health and social care providers.

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