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Dr Lesley Deacon

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Deputy Programme Leader BSc Health and Social Care; Research Lead and Editor, CASS Working Papers

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Applied Social Sciences and Deputy Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) Health and Social Care. I teach on MA Social Work and BSc Health and Social Care.

I am also a Senior Fellow of AHE.

I qualified as a social worker in 2007 and worked in front-line child protection at a local authority until becoming a lecturer in 2011. I teach modules across levels 4 to 7 primarily focused on social work theory, practice and research.

Teaching and supervision

Module Leader:
  • SWKM30 Social Work Research Methods
  • SWKM32 Social Work Dissertation

Past teaching - 
Module Leader:
  • SSC106 Understanding Health and Social Care
  • SSC227 Working Together to Safeguard Vulnerable Children, Young People and Adults
  • SSC302 Health and Social Care Dissertation
  • SSCM08 Practice DevelopmentSWK113 Psychology and Human Growth and Development
  • SWK224 Social Work Principles and Practice 2
  • SWK334 Social Work Principles and Practice 3
  • SWK322 Social Work Dissertation
  • SWK335 Social Work Ethics

PhD supervision:
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2020-present, Addressing the issues of Parental Engagement within the Child Protection Process - A Mother’s Perspective
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2020-present, Understanding Women's Lived Experiences of Domestic 'Force' in Bulgaria
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2020-present, An Exploration of Wellbeing for Women at Midlife, and the Implications of Lifecourse Events in Contemporary Western Society
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2019-present, Is there evidence in the narratives of carers of spouses/partners with dementia, that they draw on Spirituality to Support them in their Caring Role?
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2018-present, ME and the true self: Stigmatisation of living with an invisible illness ME/CFS
    • Co-Supervisor PhD, 2018-present, Exploration of women’s experiences of domestic violence in Kaduna State, Nigeria
    • Co-supervisor M.Phil., 2017, Exploring Individual Perceptions of Adults Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome using a Cultural Framework
    • Co-Supervisor PhD, 2015-2020, Child Labour, Child Education and Poverty in Nigeria

Examiner / AMR Panel Member
    • Internal examiner Professional Doctorate, 2020, The Significance of Mental Wellbeing for Care Experienced Young People: Developing a Sense of Belonging and Self-worth
    • Internal Examiner PhD by Publication, 2018, Dyslexia, Traumatic Schooling and Career Success
    • AMR Panel Member, 2017, Exploration of women’s experiences of domestic violence in Kaduna State, Nigeria
    • AMR Panel Member, 2017, ME and the true self: Stigmatisation of living with an invisible illness ME/CFS
    • Internal Examiner, Professional Doctorate, 2016, “I will make a difference”; Using Action Research to Improve Audiological Issues for Adults with Learning Disabilities and Hearing Loss
    • Internal Examiner, 2016, Mock Viva, An Investigation of the Impact of Workplace Cultures on Health and Safety Management: A Case Study in Mears Group PLC
    • ETF-SUNCETT Customised PhD Assessor, October 2020:
    • Study Programmes: The Policy-practice Gap
    • Their defining moments: Narratives of Critical Incidents and Key Influences that Prompted Progression into Post-compulsory Education in the Arts.
    • ETF-SUNCETT Customised M.Phil Assessor, October 2019: Nothing to Write Home About: an Investigation into the use of Dialogic Teaching to Develop Theoretical Engagement in A Level Drama
    • Observe, Imitate, Modify, Transcend: capturing stages and processes in the development of art and craft practices in vocational education contexts.
    • Whatsup? Social Media, Learning Online and teaching and Learning in the FAVE sector

Research interests for potential research students

My research interests include: social work theory and practice; emancipatory practice development; authentic service-user involvement; critical realist grounded theory; post-positivism; organisation and management theory; practitioner research; safeguarding; harmful sexual behaviour; disability; dyslexia; working with children; vulnerable adults and working with marginalised groups.


My research is primarily focused on how generic social work practice can effectively respond to individuals with specific, complex needs; by listening to, and advocating for, the service user voice using an emancipatory practice development framework. This is supported by the concept of the practitioner researcher – the need for practitioners to be researchers; and for research to be identified and developed through practice, in order to inform practice.

Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB): My published doctorate concerned Children’s Social Care Services Response to Children who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour. This was written from a critical realist perspective using grounded theory to present data from a reality-orientated qualitative enquiry with a Local Authority case study. From this research generative mechanisms were identified in order to inform future research and make best practice recommendations. The first article, written from this research identifies a knowledge-gap in social work practice. A lack of specialist, post-qualifying knowledge in understanding HSB by children means opportunities are being missed for earlier intervention.

Dyslexia and Practice Research: This extended research project, with Dr Stephen J Macdonald, has so far produced five co-authored papers. The research itself is in three parts. Firstly the quantitative analysis of data from the Multiple Homeless Exclusion Project in which the over-representation of people with dyslexia in the homeless population was identified as well as their susceptibility to addictive drug use. A social survey was then completed with people who have dyslexia; followed by biographical interviews. The final part of this research involves health and social care practitioners in order to understand how they respond to these adult service users who may have particular needs in relation to their dyslexia.

Isolation and Loneliness: two projects have been completed.
1. A small-scale study to analyse the impact holistic services can have on the wellbeing of parent carers of children with disabilities and/or life-limiting conditions. This involved quantitative entry and exit surveys followed by qualitative semi-structured interviews with parent carers who accessed the service. The project aimed to evaluate the success of these services in order to determine their effectiveness in reducing the negative impact of stress, isolation and loneliness often experienced by parent-carers; which, it is argued, is a by-product of the increasing impact of Neoliberalism on today’s society.

2. A large-scale Community Research Project. The project aimed to understand experiences of isolation and loneliness in the City of Sunderland in order to identify effective intervention. The project was funded by the Public Health Department, Sunderland City Council. Qualitative Biographical interviews were completed with 15 participants of varying age, gender and ethnicity. This then informed the quantitative study which identified disability as a significant factor in feelings of emotional loneliness and social isolation. The qualitative research identified the continued feelings of loss people experience throughout their lives which impacts on their feelings of emotional loneliness. It also emphasised the need to look outside of the Monday–Friday, 9–5pm areas of support and consider these people during evenings and weekends when feelings of isolation and loneliness are magnified.

During the above study a new approach to research was implemented which has been  further development in subsequent research – Facilitated Practice-based Research (Deacon 2021).

Story of Place: Community Research Project to explore the challenges, strengths, opportunities and barriers faced by families in a post-industrial town in the North East of England. I implemented a Facilitated Practice-based Research (Deacon 2021) approach, implementing a Research Teaching Programme to empower practitioner researchers in becoming research-minded; and provide ongoing research support throughout the three-year project. The intention of the project is to understand local families better and support the community to co-develop solutions and establish action plans to connect all stakeholders together in the provision of appropriate services. This research uses Emancipatory Practice Development, which provides a conceptual and methodological framework to improve human service organisations by positioning the client as the expert in all service development; and involving all stakeholders in the process. It is anticipated that three journal articles will be written from this project. Initial findings have been presented in a CASS Seminar (27 January 2021) where the methodological framework of Facilitated Practice-based Research was presented.

Nightstop, with Dr Sarah Lonbay: Third research project in which a Facilitated Practice-based Research programme will be implemented (Deacon 2021). The aim of the research is to understand the needs of young people experiencing homelessness and how they access services. Drs Deacon and Lonbay will implement the Research Training Programme with practitioner researchers within the organisation.

Social Work Theory and Practice: My post-doctoral research has developed through the post-positivist perspective; using different theoretical perspectives in order to inform effective practice. This is also informed by my co-authored book Social Work Theory and Practice (2017) which identifies the need for practitioners to refer to an eclectic toolkit of theories and models to inform inclusive and anti-discriminatory practice. My developing research now takes a particular mixed-methods approach by firstly conducting qualitative research to hear the service user voice; this is then followed by quantitative research to test this. This methodological position utilises a social scientific approach to inform practice. It has culminated in a co-authored book chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Theory (2019) ‘Disability Theory and Social Work Practice’.


Number of items: 16.


Deacon, Lesley, Macdonald, Stephen J and Donaghue, Jacob (2020) “What’s wrong with you, are you stupid?”: Listening to the biographical narratives of adults with dyslexia in an age of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘anti-discriminatory’ practice. Disability & Society. ISSN 0968-7599

Deacon, Lesley, Nicholson, Philip and Allen, Kim (2020) A Neoliberalist Solution for a Neoliberalist Problem: The Neoliberalist normalisation of psychosocial support for parent-carers. CASS Woking Papers. (In Press)

Deacon, Lesley, Macdonald, Stephen J and Nixon, Jacqui (2019) The Loss: Conceptualising Biographical Experiences of Disability, Social Isolation and Emotional Loneliness in North-East England. Social Work & Social Sciences Review, 20 (3). pp. 68-87. ISSN 1746-6105

Macdonald, Stephen J and Deacon, Lesley (2019) Twice Upon a Time: Examining the Effect Socio-Economic Status has on the Experiences of Dyslexia. Dyslexia: An International Journal of Research and Practice, 25 (1). pp. 3-19. ISSN 1099-0909

Macdonald, Stephen J, Deacon, Lesley and Nixon, J (2018) 'Loneliness in the city': examining socio-economics, loneliness and poor health in the North East of England. Journal of Public Health, 165. pp. 88-94. ISSN 0033-3506

Macdonald, Stephen J, Deacon, Lesley, Nixon, Jackie, Akintola, Abisope, Gillingham, Anna, Kent, Jacqueline, Ellis, Gillian, Mathews, Debbie, Ismail, Abolaji, Sullivan, Sylvia, Dore, Samouka and Highmore, Liz (2018) ‘The invisible enemy’: disability, loneliness and isolation. Disability & Society, 33 (7). pp. 1138-1159. ISSN 0968-7599

Macdonald, Stephen J, Deacon, Lesley and Merchant, Jacqueline (2016) ‘Too Far Gone’: Dyslexia, Homelessness and Pathways into Drug Use and Drug Dependency. Insights on Learning Disabilities, 13 (2). pp. 117-134. ISSN 1949-1212

Macdonald, Stephen J and Deacon, Lesley (2015) No Sanctuary: Missed Opportunities in Health and Social Services for Homeless People with Dyslexia. Social Work and Social Sciences Review., 17 (3). ISSN 1746-6105

Book Section

Macdonald, Stephen J and Deacon, Lesley (2019) Disability theory and social work practice. In: The Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415793438

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Cognitive Psychology: A brave new world. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 36-47. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Five Models of Disability. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 174-186. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Humanistic Psychology: A stairway to Athena. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. SAGE Publications, London, pp. 48-57. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Psychotherapy, Social Work and the Conflicted Self. In: Social Work Theory and Practice. Mastering Social Work Practice, 1 . SAGE Publications, London, pp. 13-24. ISBN 978-1-4739-5870-8

Conference or Workshop Item

Ihejieto, Chinyere, Fulton, John, Hayes, Catherine and Deacon, Lesley (2016) Child Labour, Child Education and Poverty in Nigeria; Conducting Research with Children. In: Young Persons Advisory Group North East, 1 Dec 2016, Great North Museum:Hancock, Newcastle Upon Tyne. (Unpublished)


Deacon, Lesley and Macdonald, Stephen J (2017) Social Work Theory and Practice. Mastering Social Work Practice . SAGE Publications, London. ISBN 9781473958708


Deacon, Lesley (2015) PhD: Children’s Social Care Services Response to Children who display Sexually Harmful Behaviour. Doctoral thesis, University of Durham.

This list was generated on Tue Jun 15 00:19:30 2021 BST.

Over the last four years I have developed and implemented a particular methodological approach to practice research which I have named Facilitated Practice-based Research (FPR). Rather than completing research for practice partners, I have devised a Research Teaching Programme to develop research-minded practitioner researchers to implement an Emancipatory Practice Development Framework in the evaluation of services. If you would like more information about this, please email me.

My research interests and areas of expertise include:

  • Facilitated Practice-based Research
  • Social work theory and practice
  • Practice development
  • Practitioner research, including training to empower practitioners to become community researchers
  • Critical realist grounded theory
  • Post-positivism
  • Qualitative research
  • Biographical narratives
  • Authentic service-user involvement
  • Organisation and management theory
  • Moral philosophy
  • Social research philosophy
  • Psychosocial theories
  • Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults including specific areas such as: harmful sexual behaviour, homelessness, learning disabilities; specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia
  • Working with marginalised groups

Advanced computer skills in software packages: Word, Excel, Access, Pagemaker and SerifPlus. Most of these skills were acquired working in the publishing industry.

Editorial skills: proofreading, editing, design and page layout. These were acquired through academic study on MPhil Publishing Studies, then in publishing roles such as Project Manager, Freelance Proofreader and Editor and Editorial Manager.

Last updated 12 May 2021

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