UoA 20 - Social Work and Social POlicy


Our mission is to generate knowledge that will make a real difference to people's lives in organisations, services and communities; locally, nationally and internationally. We aim to drive improvements to practice and influence policy through effective engagement, coproduction and knowledge exchange with multiple stakeholders.

As a School that prides itself on its commitment to impactful applied research, we develop and nurture an open, collaborative research culture that embraces and engages partnerships with different stakeholders and drives forward real, positive change to society. Our selection of impact case studies for the REF2021 submission reflect just a few of the diverse impacts being achieved across multiple research groups in the School of Human and Health Sciences. Examples of impacts demonstrated include improving health and wellbeing by reducing work loss due to ill health, innovating theory and practice of child protection to reduce the financial and human costs of children living apart from their birth families, informing local and national building regulations to prevent burglaries and increasing the quality of life for children of prisoners through improvements to policy and practice.

The following impact case studies have been entered for the REF 2021 submission. Find out more below.


Case study: The COPING project: Improving the welfare of children of prisoners

An estimated 2.1 million children within the EU are separated from a parent because the adult is incarcerated. The COPING project – a Pan-European study led by the University of Huddersfield – has shown these children are exposed to triple jeopardy through break-up of the family, financial hardship and extremes of stigma and secrecy. For many, this has led to adverse social, emotional and educational outcomes.

COPING has influenced new developments in policy and practice globally in order to tackle this adversity. This included policy at the UN Human Rights Council and Crime Commission, UNICEF and the Council of Europe, both directly and via NGOs. COPING was also the basis for training of charities, police and the judiciary in Romania, Uganda and the UK.


Case study: Transforming child protection policy and practice: from individual risk to social issue

Children who become involved with child protection, care and adoption systems are among the poorest in society. Research conducted at the University of Huddersfield has been ground breaking in placing poverty and inequality on policy and practice agendas across the UK in order to reduce the financial and human costs of children living apart from their birth families. The costs to local authorities in England are around £9bn per year, and there are significant ethical and human rights concerns about the rising numbers of children being removed from their birth families.

In Scotland the research has led to a reduction of children in care by 33%, and a 70% reduction in placement moves for looked after children. As a result of this work, The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) changed the assessment criteria for performance of local authorities in relation to child protection. The research has also been used to inform campaigning and training by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). The work conducted at the University of Huddersfield has led to a new understanding of child protection - the social model.


Case study: Designing out Crime: Improving police and planning policy and practice to reduce crime and create safer communities

Designing out crime, sometimes referred to as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an approach that aims to create (design, build and maintain) places and spaces (in this case the focus is housing developments) that are less vulnerable to crime. Research at the University of Huddersfield influenced police and planning policy and practice in the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

It confirmed that housing built to Secured by Design (SBD) standards (based on designing out crime principles) experienced 55% less burglary than housing that does not meet these standards. Government planning guidance was updated to include the standards at a time when austerity measures were favouring a reduction in ‘red tape’. Building regulations at the national and local level were updated to stipulate that housing must be built to these specifications. This increased the number of secure homes (44% of new homes built between 2013 and 2017 were SBD) and reduced crime and increased feelings of safety. Police training relies on the research findings.


Case study: Good Work, Good Health: providing evidence to change policy and practice to help tackle the global burden of work disability

Work disability due to ill-health is a leading global concern, costing the UK economy alone around £100bn per year. It is a major cause of disadvantage and inequality, placing a considerable burden on health, employment and welfare systems. Over the past two decades, the University of Huddersfield has played a leading role in tackling this burden.

Research commissioned by the Department for Work & Pensions, the Health & Safety Executive, the Association for British Insurers, and Public Health England has demonstrated that, through an early, biopsychosocial approach with integrated health and employment systems, work disability is largely avoidable. Our research has influenced a shift in understanding, by policymakers and key healthcare and employment stakeholders, of how work can be health-supportive. This reconceptualization is now reflected in national and international policy and guidance relevant to all working-age people.