Former Research Student Profiles

Dr Carlene Firmin

Carlene Firmin

Programme: Professional Doctorate in Children and Young People’s Services 2011-2015

Current role: Principal Research Fellow and Head of the Contextual Safeguarding Programme, University of Bedfordshire

Thesis title: Peer on peer abuse: safeguarding implications of contextualising abuse between young people within social fields

Having worked in policy organisations for a number of years, I became increasingly interested in how responses to different forms of peer-to-peer abuse (teenage relationship abuse, serious youth violence, harmful sexual behaviours between young people etc.) had been siloed. I wanted to explore what, if anything, they shared in common and what his might mean for safeguarding partnerships.

I loved completing my doctorate alongside others who were working in the field they were studying. The fact that the doctorate was ‘applied’ was so important to me– I was always focused on the practical difference my work could make.

My supervisory team I had at UoB were a fantastic support. They were integral to me identifying the best theoretical framework to organise my ideas. They kept me focused on the big picture, and also managed to pick me up on the details.

Finding time to study alongside work is always a challenge – and for me this was the biggest hurdle of doctoral study. Having said that –working in the field I was studying meant I had excellent access to data. If I hadn’t been working while studying, I’m sure this would have been more challenging.

My thesis led me to propose to concept of Contextual Safeguarding – a framework for expanding child protection systems to better engage with peer, school and neighbourhood factors that influence abuse during adolescence. The concept was inserted into statutory child protection guidelines in 2018 and a third of local authorities in England are using the framework to develop their responses to extra-familial forms of harm.

Without the dedicated time that a doctorate afforded me I am not sure I would have ever conceived of Contextual Safeguarding.

Dr Nenadi Adamu

Programme: PhD 2012-2016

Thesis title: Young people and the informal economy: understanding their pathways and decision-making within the economy

Current role: Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Studies (Health and Social Care) and Course coordinator, Health and Social Care

I started my PhD study in 2012 under the supervision of Professor Margaret Melrose and Dr Isabelle Brodie and remained under the supervision of Dr Brodie until completion in 2016. My main reason for undertaking the project was the desire for a career change and an interest in the way policy and legislation affected the choices young people made, particularly with reference to income generation. At the time of study, I had worked as a debt and welfare benefits specialist for a number of years and was aware of the challenges faced by under 25’s.

Studying for a doctorate is challenging. The main challenge I faced was funding. Being self-funded meant that I lived with the constant worry of incurring more liability is something went wrong or delayed my research. I also had challenges recruiting participants which also created some anxiety.

However, having a very supportive director of studies and a strong community of fellow research students was helpful and I successfully completed within time.  During my doctorate I also participated in other university activities, winning the ‘Three Minute Thesis’ competition!  I was also fortunate to be offered a full time lecturing position straight after completion and I have remained at the University since.

Dr Jehan Lardhi

Dr Jehan Lardhi

Programme: PhD 2012-2016

Thesis title: Responding to child abuse in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA): The role of professional training programmes

Current role: Dean of Social Work College at Princess Nourah University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

My doctoral study sought to identify the issues faced by social workers and other professionals in responding to child abuse and how this could be improved in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to discover how well they were prepared to carry out their child protection role, given the 2013 laws for protection from abuse that are now in existence. This study looked at the development of child protection professionals from a training perspective and considers the views of social work trainees on their university training programs, as well as of practitioners on their professional development training.

My experience of studying at UoB was a life-changing experience for me. From enhancing my global network to experiencing a new culture, the benefits to my education and career were very significant. Also, I was lucky in my supervision team (Dr Cherilyn Dance and Dr Isabelle Brodie) as they always encouraged creative and independent thought.

One of the big benefits of a PhD is adding knowledge to my field of study. There is great satisfaction to be had from challenging the status quo and gaining recognition from my peers.

Dr Lisa-Marie Thornhill

Lisa-Marie Thornhill

Programme: Professional Doctorate in Children and Young People’s Services 2012-2019

Thesis title: ‘How would a child see it?’ Exploring the impact when a parent downloads Indecent Images of Children (IIOC)

Current role: Research Fellow Contextual Safeguarding Team, University of Bedfordshire

The professional doctorate was recommended to me by a friend. I can confirm that we are still friends! Like many practitioners who embark on research I had noticed a gap in resource and understanding in my frontline practice. Having worked with families facing the aftermath of a father being arrested for downloading indecent images of children I was aware the literature did not seem to capture the experience of children. One of the challenges was time, I worked full time while studying. My tenacity for the subject was one of the things that kept me motivated during, the inevitable, difficult days when I didn’t feel like spending a Sunday editing.

To achieve the award, you need to be extremely organised and resilient. Studying for a doctorate takes a lot of time and energy. The sense of achievement you feel from receiving the award is wonderful. I am forever grateful to my supervisors, Professor Jenny Pearce, Dr Debi Roker and Dr Helen Beckett for their compassion, generosity, knowledge and patience. Having a doctorate has enabled me to join a team of incredible researchers who inspire me every day.


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