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Staff Profile

Ms Helen Charnley

Contact Ms Helen Charnley (email at


 I joined the university in 2002 from the University of Brighton and directed the postgraduate social work programme from 2002-2008. I am currently Director of Postgraduate Research in SASS.

I am a registered social worker with a strong commitment to linking social work theory, practice and research. I have worked as a social worker in Birmingham, Liverpool and London, as a social development worker and researcher in The Gambia, West Africa and Mozambique, Southern Africa and as a research fellow in the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent.

Reflecting social work themes of human rights and social justice, my current research focuses on: i) older people's views of the opportunities and threats of the personalisation agenda, ii) developing the capabilities of learning disabled adults as researchers, and iii) exploring the impact of service users and carers as social work educators on students' learning and practice. This project is funded through an excellence in learning and teaching award for innovative practice involving young and adult service users as educators of social work students. I am a founder member of the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action that focuses on community engagement and participatory action research.
PhD Supervision
I have supervised seven PhD students to successful completion on topics ranging from: Older women and collective action as a route to empowerment, to Siblings of autistic children in Korea, and Children's participation in NGO projects in Brazil. I am currently supervising PhD projects on:
Disability and development in Zimbabwe,
Children's rights in children's homes in Taiwan,
Children's participation in decision making in NE England,
Learning disabled adults, football supporting and social inclusion,
Children in residential care in Russia.
With experience of supervising students with a range of topics across four continents I welcome applications for PhD study that focus on any 'service user' group (for example: children separated from their families, disabled children and adults, older women and men) in any part of the world.

Research Groups

School of Applied Social Sciences

  • Policy, Professions and Communities

Research Projects

School of Applied Social Sciences

  • Keeping safe and feeling secure

Research Interests

  • North South relations and the impacts on social welfare interventions in global south
  • Children's Rights
  • Community care: emerging policy and practice in the UK
  • Participatory research methods

Teaching Areas

  • Convenor, Contemporary Social Work module, MA in Social Work Studies
  • Convenor, Foundations of Social Work (service user perspectives, social exclusion, law for social work), MSW


Books: sections

  • Charnley, H., Roddam, G. & Wistow, J. (2009). Working with people who use services: sharing power and being accountable. In Social Work: Themes, Issues and Critical Debates. Adams, R., Dominelli, L & Payne, M. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Charnley, H.M. , Penn, A. & Balloch, S. (2005). Reflections on an Evaluation of Partnerships to Cope with Winter Pressures. In The Politics of Evaluation: Participation and Policy Implemention. Taylor, D. & Balloch, S. Bristol: Policy Press. 153-174.
  • Charnley, H.M. (2001). Promoting Independence: A Partnership Approach to Supporting Older People in the Community. In Partnership working: policy and practice. Balloch, S. & Taylor, M. Bristol: The Policy Press. 143-164.

Journal papers: academic

  • Charnley, H. H & Hwang, S.K (2010). 'I feel like a giant, like a star, a proper actor.’ Reflections on a service user-led evaluation of a drama project using participatory visual research methods. Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice 7(2): 149-158.
  • Hwang, S.K. & Charnley, H. (2010). Honourable Sacrifice: a visual ethnography of the family lives of Korean children with autistic siblings. Children and Society 24(6): 437-448.
  • Hwang, S.K. & Charnley, H. (2010). Making the familiar strange and making the strange familiar: understanding Korean children’s experiences of living with an autistic sibling. Disability & Society 25(5): 579-592.
  • Charnley, H.M. & Langley, J (2007). Developing Cultural Competence as a Framework for Anti-heterosexist Social Work Practice: Reflections from the UK. Journal of Social Work 7(3): 307-321.
  • Charnley, H.M. (2007). Reflections on the Roles and Performance of International Organisations in Supporting Children Separated from their Families by War. Ethics and Social Welfare 1(3): 253-268.
  • Charnley, Helen. (2006). The Sustainability of Substitute Family Care for Children Separated from Their Families by War: Evidence from Mozambique. Children & Society 20(3): 223-234.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Social work: