Dr Helen Beckett

Director, Safer Young Lives Research Centre

Helen Beckett

I am an action-oriented researcher, with particular expertise in the fields of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and other forms of sexual violence in youth. I have a particular interest in exploring ethical means of researching sensitive issues and facilitating the meaningful engagement of marginalised children and young people in research.

I am committed to developing links between research and policy and practice discourse and, as such, regularly present on my subject of expertise and undertake media work around this. I also represent the University on a number of different advisory bodies and policy forums.

I joined the University of Bedfordshire in September 2011. I became Deputy Director of the Safer Young Lives Research Centre (formerly the International Centre) in May 2013, Joint Director in 2015 and Director in 2016. Prior to coming to the University, I worked in the fields of research and policy across the academic, statutory and voluntary sectors in Northern Ireland for fifteen years. Other areas of research expertise developed during his time include the experiences of looked after children and young people, youth homelessness and other forms of social marginalisation experienced by youth.


  • PhD (An Ethnography of Youth Homelessness) - The Queen's University of Belfast
  • MSc European Social Policy Analysis - Bath University
  • BA (Hons) Modern History and Social Policy - The Queen's University of Belfast
  • Advanced Diploma in Management Practice - The University of Ulster

Teaching Role

  • Doctoral supervision
  • Part of teaching team for Professional Doctorate in Leadership in Children and Young People's Services

Research Interests

  • Child sexual exploitation and other forms of child sexual abuse
  • Definitions and conceptualisations of sexual harm and ‘victimhood’
  • Young people’s experiences of sexual harm, and their associated needs
  • Professional responses to adolescent experiences of harm
  • Criminal justice responses to sexual harm
  • Researcher welfare
  • Participatory research
  • Ethical approaches to researching sensitive issues

Recent Research Projects

  • Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme
  • Learning about the Lighthouse: Children and young people’s experiences of the Lighthouse service
  • Learning from the Experts: Mental health and wellbeing impacts of experiencing sexual abuse in adolescence
  • SRE and faith-sensitivity
  • Learning about online sexual harm
  • Police responses to child/adolescent vulnerability (CSE and policing knowledge hub)
  • Victims' experiences of CSE criminal justice processes
  • Evaluation of specialist missing worker in police public protection unit
  • Review of responses to CSE in London
  • Gang-associated sexual violence and exploitation
  • Guardianship for young people in NI
  • Sexual exploitation of children and young people in NI

Service to the Academic/Professional Community

  • Member of University of Bedfordshire Research Ethics Committee
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Children's Services
  • Member of various research advisory groups and policy advisory bodies

Recent Publications

  • Beckett, H. and Lloyd, J. (2022) ‘Do no harm’ in Holmes, D (ed) Safeguarding Adolescents: Risk, Resilience, Rights and Relationships Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  • Beckett, H. and Soares, C. with Warrington, C. (2022) 'There's something there for everyone' Learning about the Lighthouse: Young people's perspective on London's Child House
  • Beckett, H (2019) ‘Moving beyond discourses of agency, gain and blame: reconceptualising young people’s experiences of sexual exploitation’ in Pearce, J (ed) Child Sexual Exploitation: Why theory matters Policy Press
  • Beckett, H; Warrington, C and Montgomery-Devlin, J.(2019) Learning about online sexual harm Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
  • Warrington, C, Beckett, H and Montgomery-Devlin (2019) Learning about online sexual harm: Young People’s Research Summary Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
  • Beckett, H and Pearce, J (2018; eds) Understanding and responding to child sexual exploitation
  • Beckett, H and Walker, J (2018) 'Words matter: Reconceptualising the conceptualisation of child sexual exploitation’ in Beckett, H. and Pearce, J. (eds) Understanding and responding to child sexual exploitation
  • Beckett, H, Holmes, D and Walker, J (2017) Child sexual exploitation: Definition and guide for professionals: Extended Text
  • Warrington, C with Beckett, H and Ackerley, Walker, M and Allnock, D (2017) Making Noise: Children’s voices for positive change after sexual abuse
  • Walker, J and Beckett, H (2017) Child sexual exploitation. How public health can support prevention and intervention
  • Beckett, H., Warrington, C., Ackerley, E and Allnock, D. (2016) Children’s Voices in Research Report: Children and young people’s perspectives on the police’s role in safeguarding: a report for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.
  • Beckett, H and Pearce, J (2015) (eds) Safer Communities Journal: Child Sexual Exploitation (Vol. 14. 1)
  • Beckett, H. and Warrington, C. (2015) Making Justice Work: Experiences of criminal justice for children and young people affected by sexual exploitation as victims and witnesses. Luton: The University of Bedfordshire
  • Beckett, H. (2014) 'Sexual violence and exploitation in adolescence' in Schubotz, D and Devine, P (eds) Not So Different. Teenage attitudes across a decade of change in Northern Ireland
  • Beckett, H. et al (2014) Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: A Study of Current Practice in London
  • Beckett, H. and Firmin, C (2014) Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: A Study of Current Practice in London. Summary Report.
  • Beckett, H. and Warrington, C. (2014) Suffering in silence: Children and unreported crime, Victim Support. London: Victim Support
  • Firmin, C. and Beckett, H. (2014) in Dalton, M. (ed) 'Special Issues: Child Sexual Exploitation' in Forensic Gynaecology: Advanced Skills Series (Cambridge Press)
  • Kohli, R, Connolly, H and Beckett, H. (2014) By their side and on their side. Reviewing the evidence for guardianship for separated children in Northern Ireland. Belfast: NICCY
  • Beckett, H. (2013) 'Looked after young people and CSE: A View from Northern Ireland' in Melrose, M. and Pearce, J. (eds) Critical Perspectives on Child Sexual Exploitation and Related Trafficking
  • Beckett, H and Schubotz, D. (2013) 'Young People's Self-Reported Experiences of Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Violence: a View from Northern Ireland' in Journal of Youth Studies (published online 13 August 2013)
  • Beckett, H. et al (2013) 'It's wrong…but you get used to it' A qualitative study of gang-associated sexual violence and exploitation
  • Beckett, H. et al (2012) Research into gang associated sexual exploitation and sexual violence: Interim report
  • Beckett, H. (2011) Not a World Away: The Sexual Exploitation of Children and Young People in Northern Ireland
  • Beckett, H. (2010) 'Adolescents' Experiences of the Right to Play and Leisure in Northern Ireland' in Child Care in Practice 16:3
  • Beckett, H. et al (2009) Children's Rights: Rhetoric or Reality. A Review of Children's Rights in Northern Ireland
  • Beckett, H. et al (2005) Interim Evaluation of the Northern Ireland Youth Conferencing Scheme
  • Beckett, H. (2004) An Ethnography of Youth Homelessness (PhD thesis, Queen's University Belfast)

Contact Details

Room F303a
University Square

T: 07725 217231 
E: helen.beckett@beds.ac.uk


University switchboard
During office hours
(Monday-Friday 08:30-17:00)
+44 (0)1234 400 400

Outside office hours
(Campus Watch)
+44 (0)1582 74 39 89



International office

Student support