Professor Sue White


Department of Sociological Studies

Emeritus Professor of Social Work

 Professor Sue White
Profile picture of  Professor Sue White
+44 114 222 6441

Full contact details

Professor Sue White
Department of Sociological Studies
Room G32
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH

Sue joined the Department in October 2016, having previously been Professor of Social Work at the Universities of Birmingham and Lancaster.

She is a registered social worker with an academic background in sociology. Her research is interdisciplinary and currently covers three main areas. She has undertaken a number of detailed ethnographic studies of everyday institutional practices and professional decision-making, principally in child and family health and welfare.

She is also researching the uses of neuroscience and epigenetics in child and family welfare policy. A further strand of research focuses on socio-technical systems design, with attention to human, social and interactional factors in enhancing safety, particularly in children’s safeguarding.

Research interests

Sue's primary research interest is in the sociological analysis of professional judgement and decision-making with an emphasis on understanding how science, formal knowledge, rhetoric, moral judgement, emotion and subjectivity interact in professional practice, particularly in child health and welfare.

Her research has focused principally on the analysis of professional talk in a range of health and welfare settings. However, she has also undertaken evaluative and applied research for central and local government, NHS and non-statutory organisations.



  • Walsh T, White S, Gibson M & Wastell D (2019) Reassessing Attachment Theory in Child Welfare. Policy Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Featherstone B, Gupta A, Morris K & White S (2018) Protecting Children: A Social Model. Policy Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Wastell D & White S (2017) Blinded by Science: The Social Implications of Epigenetics and Neuroscience. Bristol: Policy Press. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Featherstone B, White S & Morris KM (2014) Re-imagining child protection: Towards humane social work with families. Bristol: Policy Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • White S (2018) Examining the Artfulness of ‘Risk Talk’, Constructing Social Work Practices (pp. 87-102). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • White S, Morris K, Featherstone B, Brandon M & Thoburn J (2014) Re-imagining early help: Looking forward, looking back, Moving on from Munro: Improving Children's Services (pp. 73-88). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Doherty P & White S (2012) Knowledge for reflexive practice, The SAGE Handbook of Social Work (pp. 207-223). RIS download Bibtex download
  • White S (2011) Fabled uncertainty in social work, Towards Professional Wisdom: Practical Deliberation in the People Professions (pp. 171-185). RIS download Bibtex download
  • White S & Wastell D (2011) Theoretical vocabularies and moral negotiation in child welfare: The saga of Evie and Seb, Handbook of Communication in Organisations and Professions (pp. 259-276). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Vandenbroeck M, De Vos J, Fias W, Olsson LM, Penn H, Wastell D & White S () Constructions of Neuroscience in Early Childhood Education Routledge RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

Conference proceedings papers

Research group

Sue is currently supervising students undertaking ethnographic research in children’s services and on professional practice in child welfare settings. She would welcome applications for postgraduate study in the area of child and family social work, professional practice, ethnography, the social implications of technological biologies, or the design of systems.

  • 2015 - 2016 DfE Innovations Fund, Information Management Strand – DfE Innovations Fund, Signs of Safety project (value £60k).
  • 2015 The Leverhulme Trust, Epigenetics and Society (Co I, PI Paul Martin).
  • 2015 - 2018 NORFACE, Family complexity and social work. A comparative study of family-based welfare work in different welfare regimes (UK lead) (total UK grant value to £230,00).
  • 2014 - 2016, ESRC, Family inclusive policy and practice (Co-I) £100,000.
  • 2013 - 2016 Marie Curie Fellowship, Lead Scientist, Marie Curie Fellowship (Dr Nathan Hughes), NeurosciSocPol— Applying neuroscience to social policy and the law: neuromaturation and young adult offending; £303,000.
  • 2012 - 2014 NIHR, HSR Programme, Making the Case in Safeguarding: Enhancing Safe Practice at the Interface between Hospital Services and Children’s Social Care (Principal Investigator £202,790).
  • 2009 - 2010 ESRC, Researcher Development Initiative, £90,000 (Co-investigator).
  • 2006 - 2008 ESRC Public Services Programme, Error Blame and Responsibility: The Problematics of Governance in an Invisible Trade, £330,000 Grade: Outstanding (Principal investigator).
  • 2004 - 2006 ESRC e-Society Programme, Tracking Children and Accomplishing Risk: e-Assessment Systems in Child Welfare £120,000 – Grade: Outstanding (Co-investigator).
Teaching activities

Sue contributes to teaching mainly on postqualifying/postgraduate courses in social work. She has been a representative for the social work academy on major national bodies responsible for delivery, development and innovation in social work education.

Her teaching is informed by her ethnographic and discourse analytic research into professional sense-making and her practice and research experience at the interface with medicine.