UWE Law Researcher awarded 'ESRC Transformative Research' grant

Issue date: 14 July 2014


Dr Lauren Devine of UWE Bristol Law School has been awarded over £200,000 from the ESRC for an innovative project to rethink key elements of child protection policy.

The 18 month project 'Rethinking child protection strategy: evaluating research findings and numeric data to consider whether current intervention strategy is justified' was awarded the grant under the second year of the ESRC's Transformative Research Call.

As one of only thirteen grants awarded this year by the ESRC under this call, this grant award marks a major achievement for the University. The call is by invitation only, with each post 1992 University being restricted to making one submission.

Starting in September 2014 the research aims to create a new, inter-disciplinary approach to evaluating child protection and family intervention processes together with their social, welfare and economic cost. There is potential for this project to have global impact in relation to any jurisdiction which adopts state policies of intervention into various aspects of private life.

As part of the project, Dr Devine and Co-Investigator Mr Stephen Parker will use a number of inter-disciplinary methods of analysis to take a fresh look at aspects of child protection processes and their effectiveness.

The research will investigate the costs (financial, social and economic) of child protection intervention, a multi-billion pound per annum industry. The perception of 'failure' and of 'success' will also be investigated, with an aim to producing an inter-disciplinary, integrated means of evaluation that can be applied to any government system worldwide that operates via assessment of families as a gateway to services and/or interventions. The research will include evaluation of the harms caused by interventions as well as the benefits.

Dr Devine,said, “I am delighted to have been successful with this bid. It is a fantastic opportunity to be able to explore the innovative methods and thinking in relation to child protection that we propose in this research and to be able to be involved in a project with such a large potential impact.”

The aim of ESRC's Transformative Research Call is to provide a stimulus for genuinely transformative research ideas at the frontiers of the social sciences, enabling research which challenges current thinking to be supported and developed.

Transformative research is regarded as involving pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation, the novel application of theory and methods in new contexts, and/or research based on the engagement of unusual disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. While it can often be seen as high risk, it provides the possibility of high reward or research that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge and exciting new insights.

The project was selected following a rigorous selection process. Dr Devine was successfully selected as UWE Bristol's bid, which then was selected by the ESRC's Commissioning Panel to go forward to the 'peer to peers event' where applicants pitched their research to their peers and the panel.

Professor Jane Harrington, the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law said, “ Congratulations to Lauren and Stephen on this wonderful achievement for the University. As only one of thirteen grants awarded by the ESRC, this project is further recognition of the excellent reputation Bristol Law School has built for its cutting edge national and international research.”

The project will be running various open access events as well as symposia for experts from a number of related disciplines and other stakeholders throughout its life. The researchers welcome contributions from a wide range of interested parties.

The project's home page can be accessed here.

For further information about the project please contact the Principal Investigator Dr Lauren Devine (e-mail lauren.devine@uwe.ac.uk) or the Co-Investigator Stephen Parker (e-mail stephen3.parker@uwe.ac.uk) or via the project email (transformative@uwe.ac.uk)

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