Emeritus Professor Peter Marsh

BSc (SocSci), MPhil, Dip (AssSocStud), CQSW, AcSS

Department of Sociological Studies

Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Welfare

Academic Director, University of Sheffield Enterprise

p.marsh@sheffield.ac.uk

Full contact details

Emeritus Professor Peter Marsh
Department of Sociological Studies
Elmfield Building
Northumberland Road
Sheffield
S10 2TU
Profile

An education in applied sociology and social work, and Peter's practice as a social worker in North Kensington in London, led to a joint appointment in 1980 between Sheffield City Council Social Services and the University of Sheffield as a lecturer/practitioner in a community-based team. This ten year project formed a basis for a continuing interest in the development, application and dissemination of applied research within public services.

Since 1980, along with colleagues at Sheffield and elsewhere, Peter has been engaged in applied policy-related research which has often examined new solutions to long-standing problems, and has usually featured a close collaboration between practitioners, policy makers and the research team. Research projects have included a national study of social work education and training and its inter-connection with the first year of practice, the experiences of young people leaving the care system and their links with extended family, an evaluation of the pilot youth offending teams, an evaluation within child welfare services of a family decision-making model called Family Group Conferences and studies of the research infrastructure.

Throughout this period Peter has been engaged in the development and evaluation of task-centred practice, jointly with practice colleagues and Professor Mark Doel. Twenty years of practice development work has resulted in continuing refinement of a systematic model of partnership and evidence based practice. From 2003-6 he worked as part of the Primary Care Research and Development Unit, engaged in knowledge transfer within General Practice teams.

Evidence-based practice and policy in child welfare social work

Peter's research in this area has provided a sociological perspective on the effectiveness of the child welfare policy system, especially as viewed through the eyes of the families involved. It has been internationally recognised, and played a role in the partnership emphasis of major legislation, including the Children Act 1989. His knowledge transfer work has included many publications in `findings´ form, and other innovative modes, and heading up the northern unit of the largest research implementation project in the UK `Research in Practice´ which has over 100 UK partner service organisations. From 2004 Peter has been engaged in a series of papers and studies of the evidence base for social work practice with colleague Professor Mike Fisher, and he has led the resources group of the national social work research strategy.

Partnership-based social work practice with children and families

A second focus for Peter's research has been the nature of the social exchange involved between professionals and users in social care. He is one of the leading international research authorities on the development, use and outcomes of Family Group Conferences.

In the late 1980´s Peter co-directed an experimental ten year project in the Crookes area of Sheffield, working as a social worker to link research and local services. From 2003-6 he worked on a knowledge transfer project within a Primary Care Research and Development Unit.

Professional education and professional development in health and social care

Developing in part out of his interest in policy implementation, the third theme of Peter's research has been the nature of professionalism within health and social care services.

In 1986 Peter initiated, with a colleague from the University of Edinburgh, a national debate on the need for research and evaluation into professional training, and our national evaluation of social work education has had a major influence, especially on post qualifying work in child care.

Research interests

Peter's research has been empirically based and policy-related, with primary focus on child welfare services. Much of it has explored new solutions to long-standing problems, and been part of a close collaboration with practitioners and policy makers. Outlines of the findings of the research are available on my research dissemination 'Families and Welfare' web pages.

The research has often featured developmental work and action research methods, and there has been a long standing interest in the views of the users of services and the development of professional practice. Three broad themes have been covered.

  • Families, Well-being and Effective Services

    Peter's research in this area has been designed to provide an applied sociological perspective on the working of different parts of the child welfare policy system, especially as viewed through the eyes of the families involved.
  • Rights, Power and Social Care Practice

    A second focus has been the nature of the social exchange involved between professionals and users in social care. Key issues under study have included: the ways that users are involved with and experience the assessment and decision-making role of professionals, how tasks for professionals and users are distributed within social care services, and the nature of power and control within compulsory services in child protection and criminal justice.
  • Professionalism and Professional Training in Health, Youth Justice and Social Care

    Developing in part out of the interest in policy implementation, the third theme of Peter's research has been the nature of professionalism within health youth justice and social care services: how definitions of professionalism may interact with new policy initiatives, how such definitions are formed and developed during professional training, and the interaction of different professionals within services and teams.

Peter's publications are also listed on a project by project basis and in a complete chronology at this research dissemination web site. There is a note against the publication below if a pdf is available on that site.

Grants
Date Sponsor Details
2005-2010 Dartington Hall Trust Research in Practice
2004-2005 56 Social Services, and The Association of Directors of Social Services Research in Practice—- Developing a platform for research and practice dialogue: An A.D.S.S. Initiative at Sheffield and Dartington
2002-2004 The Department of Health The Experience of Teenage Parenting For Ethnic Minority Parents (with G. Higginbottom, Institute of Primary Care, University of Sheffield)
1998-2004 50 Social Services, and The Association of Directors of Social Services Research in Practice— - Building a research implementation network: An A.D.S.S. Initiative at Sheffield and Dartington
2000 Trent Focus Primary Care Support Network Developing Social Care Research at the Health and Social Services Interface in Primary Care
1998-2001 Home Office An Evaluation of the Youth Justice Pilots under the Crime and Disorder Act (with P. Wiles, S. Holdaway, R. Hammersley, J. Dignan, N. Davidson (Departments of Law and Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, and Department of Geography, University of Hull)
1997-1999 Headley Trust & Wiltshire Social Services Pulling Together – family support in child welfare
1995-1997 Department of Health Leaving Care in Partnership
1994-97 Nuffield Foundation Family Partners – participation in child welfare services