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Dr Lesley Deacon


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Senior Lecturer Social Work

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Vice Chancellor's Research and Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Senior Fellow AdvanceHE, and a registered Social Worker (Social Work England).

I describe myself as a neurodivergent, academic-based practitioner researcher. My areas of interest are neurodiversity and practice research.

I have developed a new approach to empower practitioners (across a range of professions) to engage in, and lead, practice research – Facilitated Practice-based Research (copyright University of Sunderland) (FPR). This model is neurodiverse and trauma-informed and consists of an intensive, facilitated, research programme in which a group of practitioners works together to co-design, co-construct and co-implement a piece of practice research relevant to current practice issues. Research findings are then implemented into practice and monitored for impact. It is linked to the module SWKM43 Reflexive Practice Research.

As a neurodivergent person, I combine my lived experience with research into creating spaces that are neurodiverse ie open and accessible, acknowledging all neurological diversity.



Teaching and supervision

Module Leader:
  • SWKM42 Advanced Safeguarding Children
  • SWKM43 Reflexive Practice Research

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
  • SWKM30 Social Work Research
  • SWKM32 Social Work Dissertation

PhD/DProf supervision:
    • Director of Studies PhD, 2021-present, A study into the antecedents for and consequences of the way in which social workers position themselves in NHS hospitals
    • Director of Studies ProfDoc, 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, 2018-2022, 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
    • AMR Panel Member, 2021, Why have Child Spatial Inequalities in Ethiopia not Improved? Analysis of Public Policy
    • 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

I am primarily interested in how to bridge the gap between social work practice and research, through engaging in Participatory Practice Research.

I have devised a model to facilitate this process in practice organisations, as explained in my biography – Facilitated Practice-based Research (FPR).

In terms of topics, my research interests include: authentic service-user involvement; organisation and management theory; participatory action research; safeguarding; neurodiversity; working with children; vulnerable adults and working with marginalised groups.

Research

My research is now primarily focused on Participatory Practice Research, and I have developed a model of empowerment to engage practitioners in leading on it: Facilitated Practice-based Research (copyright University of Sunderland) (Deacon 2023). Facilitated Practice-based Research is a facilitated research programme that engages practitioners in co-designing, co-constructing and co-implementing a piece of group practice research that is current and relevant to their practice. Findings from the research are then implemented into practice and their impact monitored. This has led to a number of different research projects, set out below.

Facilitated Practice-based Research Projects
1. Story of Place. A number of pieces of live fieldwork have taken place over a period of four years (2019-2023), to understand the community of Wallsend in the North-east of England. With community development practitioners from Wallsend Children’s Community.
2. What factors must social work practitioners consider when making decisions to refer service users/carers to external support services in the Third Sector? With practitioners from Nightstop and Dr Sarah Lonbay and Ms Sarah Connelly.
3. What do service users understand by the concept of ‘consent’ based on their lived experiences giving consent to being referred to an Early Help Service? With practitioners from a Local Authority and Mz Carrie Philips.
4. How do Newly Qualified Social Workers Perceive and Experience the support given for the first year of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment? With practitioners from the North East Social Work Alliance (NESWA) and Mz Carrie Phillips and Ms Zeta Bikova.
5. How do Partner Professionals perceive and experience safeguarding children and adults? With practitioners from NESWA and Mz Carrie Phillips and Ms Zeta Bikova. 6. A further project is in development with a new cohort of practitioners from NESWA.

Further Research

Dyslexia Research: This extended research project, with Dr Stephen J Macdonald, produced five co-authored papers. The research itself was in two 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.


Isolation and Loneliness: two projects
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 interventions. 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 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.

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 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 culminated in a co-authored book chapter in the Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Theory (2019) ‘Disability Theory and Social Work 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.

Publications

Number of items: 54.

Article

Deacon, Lesley (2023) Facilitated Practice-based Research (copyright, University of Sunderland): A model of empowerment to reduce research anxiety in social work practitioner researchers and reframe cultural capital. European Social Work Research, 1 (1). ISSN 2755-1768

Deacon, Lesley (2022) Emancipatory practice development in social welfare service evaluation – a worked example. International Practice Development Journal. (In Press)

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.

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

Reports, briefing/ working papers

Deacon, Lesley, Aggar, Emma, Barrigan, Andrea, Bonina, Bokali, Bowe, Beverey, Cheesman, Rebecca, Edwards, Lynsey, Gallagher, Niamh, Hall, Ian, King, Tess, McCarthy, Andrea, Scorer, Jamie, Tony-Obot, Ola and Weightman, Katherine (2024) ‘I feel so much better after I've had supervision’: Social Workers experiences and perceptions of ‘effective’ supervision. Project Report. University of Sunderland, Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Phillips, Carrie, Bikova, Zeta, Cuthbertson, Alex, Denny, Simon, Gray, Simon, Stamp, Dean, Bramwell, Mel, Swainston, Charlotte, Keyes, Suzie, Thomason, Paige and Herschel, Donald (2023) Facilitated Practice-based Research Report: Working together in Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults. Project Report. University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Butler, Anneliesa and Shaw, Julie (2023) Whole-School Approach to Supporting the Mental Health and Wellbeing (MHW) of Children and Young People. Project Report. University of Sunderland, Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley and Durey, Matthew (2023) INTERIM REPORT: for distribution and discussion How can the Newcastle Diocese Safeguarding Team better support Incumbents, Parish Safeguarding Officers and Churchwardens in the effective implementation of Church of England safeguarding policy in practice? Project Report. University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Lockhart, Kate, Gray, Gill and Bikova, Zeta (2023) Practice Report: Story of Place, 2023. Project Report. University of Sunderland, Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Phillips, Carrie and Bikova, Zeta (2023) Newly Qualified Social Workers’ Perceptions and Experiences of Support during the Assessed and Supported Year of Employment. Project Report. University of Sunderland, Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Lonbay, Sarah and Connelly, Sarah (2023) Understanding Referral Processes for Responding to Youth Homelessness. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley and Bikova, Zeta (2023) An exploration of Children’s Community Practitioners’ Perspectives of Local families’ Challenges during Covid-19. Project Report. University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Aggar, Emma and Deacon, Lesley (2022) An exploration of the Wallsend Children’s Community’s Emergency Response Grant as an Emerging Necessity. Project Report. University of Sunderland, Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Conference or Workshop Item

Deacon, Lesley and Bikova, Zeta (2024) NEURODIVERSITY WORKSHOP: Taster for BASW. In: BASW UK Conference, 18-19 Jun 2024, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Thomason, Paige and Swainston, Charlotte (2024) Working together in Safeguarding: findings from an exploratory study to understand partner professionals’ experiences of working with social workers, across the NESWA partnership. In: BASW Practitioner Research Group, 03 Jun 2024, Online. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley and Stamp, Dean (2024) ”Time to Talk” Findings from an exploratory study to understand what partner professionals expect from social workers to enhance understanding of thresholds for safeguarding referrals. In: 13th European Conference for Social Work Research, 17-19 Apr 2024, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Deacon, Lesley, Phillips, Carrie and Bikova, Zeta (2024) An empowering pedagogical approach to alleviating research anxiety and sustaining research capacity in social work practitioners. In: The Social Work & Social Development SWSD2024, 04-07 Apr 2024, Panama.

Deacon, Lesley and Phillips, Carrie (2024) NQSWs’ experiences of the ASYE across the North-East of England Teaching Partnership (NESWA). In: JUSWAC 2024, 27-28 Jun 2024, Kingston University, London. (Unpublished)

Phillips, Carrie (2024) Care and Compassion in Hospital Social Work. In: CASS Public Lecture Series (28th February 2024), 28 Feb 2024, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley (2023) Facilitated Practice-based Research (copyright University of Sunderland): Empowering social work practitioners to lead, in practice-based research. In: Skills for Care National ASYE Assessors' Forum, 5/09/2023, Online. (Unpublished)

Deacon, Lesley, Phillips, Carrie and Bikova, Zeta (2023) Facilitated Practice-based Research: An Empowering Pedagogical Approach to Reframe Research Capacity in Social Work Practitioners. In: JSWEC 2023, 15-16/06/2023, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Phillips, Carrie, Deacon, Lesley, Ling, Jonathan and Burrows, Daniel (2023) Hospital Social Work & COVID-19: Distance and moral distress. In: JSWEC 2023, 15-16/06/2023, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) Narrowing the gap between social work research and practice: How do social workers make use of research and what impact does this have on practice? In: European Conference for Social Work Research, 12-14 April, Milan, Italy.

Deacon, Lesley and Thomason, Paige (2022) Facilitated Practice-based Research: bridging the gap between social work research and practice. In: 6th International Conference on Practice Research in Social Work, 7-9 June 2023, Aalborg, Denmark. (Submitted)

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)

Book

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

Thesis

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

Audio

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) The Portal Podcast: Domestic abuse services for men, women, and children. [Audio]

Wilcock, Angela (2023) Help seeking and experiences of Thai women in the UK. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) Introduction to season 2 of The Portal Podcast. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) Key messages for practice from season 2 of The Portal Podcast. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) The Portal Podcast: Domestic abuse and Eastern European Women. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) The Portal Podcast: Domestic abuse and older people. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) The Portal Podcast: Domestic abuse, help seeking, and the experiences of Thai women in the UK. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2023) The Portal Podcast: Financial consequences of domestic abuse. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking Research and Practice for Social Work. Series one, episode three: A conversation with Donna. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking Research and Practice for Social Work. Series one, episode two: A conversation with Rick. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking Research and Practice for Social Work. Series one, episode four: A conversation with Lesley. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking research and practice for social work. Series one, episode five: A conversation with Angie and Sheila. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking research and practice for social work. Series one, episode seven: A conversation between Sarah and Lesley. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) The Portal Podcast: Linking research and practice for social work. Series one, episode six: A conversation with Nicola and Demi. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley The Portal Podcast: Linking Research and Practice for Social Work. Series one, episode 1: A conversation with Neil Evans. [Audio]

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley Portal Podcast: Linking Research and Practice for Social Work. Series one. Episode 0. [Audio]

This list was generated on Sat Jul 20 06:20:42 2024 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
  • Qualitative research
  • Biographical narratives
  • Authentic service-user involvement
  • Neurodiversity
  • 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 03 June 2024