Dr Stephen Hicks PhD, DipSW

Senior Lecturer in Social Work

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Research interests

Community, Atmosphere and Belonging: Along with Vanessa May (Sociology), Camilla Lewis (Sociology and Anthropology), Sandra Costa Santos and Nadia Bertolino (Architecture, University of Northumbria), I worked on a 2 year, Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project, "Place and Belonging: What can we learn from Claremont Court housing scheme?" This project, based at Claremont Court, an early 1960s modernist social housing development, designed by Sir Basil Spence, considered place, space, belonging, atmosphere and welfare in a mixed housing project, and worked with local residents and the Residents' Committee to consider how people felt about the atmosphere and community where they live, and what contributes to a sense of belonging and welfare in a locality. Our monograph, Home and Community: Lessons from a Modernist Housing Scheme was published by Routledge in 2018.

LGBT Parenting: I have carried out research on lesbian and gay foster care and adoption, and on LGBT parenting. I have published widely in this field, and also wrote Manchester City Council's (2007) practice guidance on assessing lesbian and gay applicants in foster care or adoption. My book, Lesbian, Gay & Queer Parenting: Families, Intimacies, Genealogies was published in the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family & Intimate Life series in 2011, and with Janet McDermott I published a new, revised edition of Lesbian and Gay Fostering and Adoption in 2018.

Social work and theory: I am developing a project (supported by a pump prime award from the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Social Work) on the role of theory within social work, or how social work practitioners, students and academics define and practise theory. The development and consultation phase of this project uses group interviews, social media discussions and an online archive to assess how 'theory' is conceptualized and practised, and will result in feedback to participants, a conceptual literature review and an article discussing initial findings.

Sexuality and Social Welfare: I have also written on aspects of theorizing sexuality in social work and welfare.

Child Death and Maltreatment: From 2000-2004, with Corinne May-Chahal and Jo Tomlinson, I carried out an NSPCC nationally-funded study on the relationship between child death and maltreatment. The NSPCC published our full and summary reports in 2004 (see publications).

Methodological knowledge

I am a qualitative researcher and I have specialisms in:

  • interview-based research
  • observational and ethnographic methods (including institutional ethnography)
  • discourse analytic approaches

I am also very interested in feminist, queer, interactionist and anti-racist research approaches.

I have supervised doctoral students in the following areas:

  • transgender people and social work/welfare.
  • family mediation discourses.
  • men and domestic partner abuse.
  • children as interpreters in social work services.
  • professional identity and the approved mental health practitioner role, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.
  • hearing parents' understandings of outcomes for Deaf children and young people.
  • ethnographic studies of: child protection services in UK/Belgium; research ethics committees and questions of capacity; and the culture of a radiography department.


Research and projects