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Helen Charnley

Emeritus Reader

Emeritus Reader in the Department of Sociology
Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing


I joined the university in 2002 from the University of Brighton and directed the postgraduate social work programme from 2002-2008. 

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 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


Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students