Children, young people & families programme, Health inequalities theme
University of Liverpool (LiLaC)
Child health inequalities; the prevention of child abuse and neglect; policymaking in children’s services
What has been your career journey so far?
I am an English graduate, and worked for some years at a literary agency, a stone’s throw from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I subsequently did a Master’s in Public Health. A strong interest in inequalities led me to take a job as a keyworker in supported accommodation for young women, many of whom were looked after by the local authority or care-experienced. This role defined my research interests.
Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?
I missed research. While I considered, every day, how to improve outcomes for young people, research questions started to accumulate; I had no way of answering them. Then a friend suggested a PhD. The idea wormed its way into my mind. When I happened upon the opportunity to research child welfare inequalities, there seemed no choice but to apply.
What is your research focused on?
My research is focussed on the steep rise in children becoming looked after over the past decade. Exploiting natural policy experiments borne of the differential impact of economic and social policies across local authorities in England, my aim has been to investigate tractable drivers of the rise, with a view to informing policy.
Why is it important?
An extensive body of research has exposed the lifelong health and social consequences of childhood adversity. Children Looked After are particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes, having faced acute forms of adversity. Policy-relevant public health research into upstream drivers of children becoming looked after has the potential to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?
The NIHR School for Public Health embeds postgraduate students in a community of Early Career Researchers and fosters collaboration. The School also offers, and supports, valuable training opportunities. As a result, I was able to engage in a 3 month placement within a Local Authority’s Children’s Services Department.
What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?
My PhD began with crash courses in R software and longitudinal data analysis, and I am currently developing my understanding of qualitative methodologies in the context of mixed methods research. But as a whole, to date, the PhD has been a lesson in project management, teamwork, and asking as many people as possible, as many questions as they will allow, as early as I can.
What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?
I am not sure. I am primarily interested in working to improve outcomes for children and young people. I would like to pursue a research career, but I am also drawn to local government and the voluntary sector.