Image of Sue WhiteProfessor Sue White

Professor of Social Work

(BSc, CQSW, ,MA, PhD, FAcSS)

Telephone: 0114 222 6441 (external) 26441 (internal)
Room: Elmfield, G32


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.


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.

Funded Research Projects
Date Sponsor Details
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).


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.

Postgraduate supervision

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.

To find out more about our PhD programmes, go to:
Studying for a PhD in Sociology

To apply for a place and for the scholarship, go to:


Publications since 2005

Authored books

Wastell, D and White, S (forthcoming 2017) Blinded by Science: Social Implications of Neuroscience and Epigenetics, Bristol: Policy Press.

Featherstone, B., White S. and Morris K. (2014) Reimagining Child Protection: Towards Humane Social Work with Families, Policy Press.

Edited books

White, S., Fook, J. and Gardiner, F. (eds) (2006) Critical Reflection in Health and Social Care, Maidenhead: Open University Press

Academic journal papers

White, S. J., & Wastell, D. (2016). Epigenetics Prematurely Born(e): Social Work and the Malleable Gene. British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcw157

White, S. and Wastell, D., (2016) The rise and rise of prevention science in UK family welfare: surveillance gets under the skin. Families, Relationships and Societies. doi: 10.1332/204674315X14479283041843

White, S., Wastell, D., Smith, S., Hall, C., Whitaker, E., Debelle, G., Mannion, R & Waring, J. (2015). Improving practice in safeguarding at the interface between hospital services and children’s social care: a mixed-methods case study. Health Services Delivery and Research 3, 4 ISSN 2050-4349. doi: 10.3310/hsdr03040

Morris, Kate, et al. (2015) "Out of time: theorizing family in social work practice." Child & Family Social Work . doi: 10.1111/cfs.12257

Gupta, A., Featherstone, B. and White, S., (2014) Reclaiming humanity: From capacities to capabilities in understanding parenting in adversity. British Journal of Social Work, p.bcu137. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcu137

Wastell D. And White, S. (2014) Making sense of complex electronic records: sociotechnical design in social care, Applied Ergonomics, 45 143 -149. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2013.02.002

Featherstone, B, Morris, K. And White, S. (2014) A Marriage Made in Hell: Child Protection meets Early Intervention, British Journal of Social Work 44 (7) (winner of Volume 44, Kay McDougall British Journal of Social Work Prize). doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bct052

Wastell, D., & White, S. (2013) Beyond bureaucracy: Emerging trends in social care informatics. Health informatics journal, DOI: 1460458213487535.

Wastell, D. and White S. (2013) Response to comments on ‘Blinded by Neuroscience...’, Seen and Heard, NAGALRO.

Wastell, D. And White S (2012) Blinded by Neuroscience: Social Policy, the Family and the Infant Brain, Families, Relationships and Society vol 1, no 3, 2012, 397–414. doi: 10.1332/204674312X656301

Featherstone, B.; White, S.; Wastell, D. (2012) Ireland’s opportunity to learn from England’s difficulties? Auditing uncertainty in child protection, Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies, Vol. 12(1), 2012, 28-42. Available at:

Pithouse, A; White, S.; Broadhurst, K; Hall, C and Wastell, D. (2011) Trust, risk and the (mis)management of contingency and discretion through new technologies in children’s services, Journal of Social Work. Published online 18 February 2011. doi: 10.1177/1468017310382151.

Wastell, D.; Peckover, S.; White, S.; Broadhurst, K.; Hall, C and Pithouse, A (2011) Social Work in the Laboratory: Using Microworlds for Practice Research, British Journal of Social Work, doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcr014. First published online: March 11, 2011.

Wastell, D. and White, S. (2010) Facts, myths and thought-styles… and a rallying cry for civic engagement, Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 19, 4, 307-318. doi: 10.1016/j.jsis.2010.10.003

White S. (2010) Thesis Review: Behind Closed Doors: Exploring the Institutional Logic of Child Protection Work; Journal of Comparative Social Work, 2, 1-4.

Wastell, D., White, S., Broadhurst, K., Hall, C., Peckover, S. & Pithouse, A. (2010) Children’s services in the iron cage of performance management: street level bureaucracy and the spectre of Švejkism, International Journal of Social Welfare 19: 310–320. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2397.2009.00716.x

Hall, C.; Parton, N; Peckover, S. and White, S. (2010) Child-Centric Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the Fragmentation of Child Welfare Practice in England, Journal of Social Policy. 39, 3, 393–413. doi:

White, S.; Wastell, D.; Broadhurst, K and Hall, C. (2010) When policy o’erleaps itself: the tragic tale of the Integrated Children’s System, Critical Social Policy 30: 405-429. doi:

Broadhurst, K., Hall, C., Pithouse., A., Peckover., S. White., S. and Wastell, D (2010) Risk, instrumentalism and the humane project – identifying the informal logics of risk management in children's statutory services. British Journal of Social Work 40 (4): 1046-1064.

Broadhurst, K.; Wastell, D; White, S; Hall, C; Peckover, S; Thompson, K.; Pithouse, A and Davey D. (2010) Performing ‘Initial Assessment’: Identifying the Latent Conditions for Error at the Front-Door of Local Authority Children’s Services, British Journal of Social Work 40, 2: 352-370.

White, S.; Wastell, D.; Broadhurst, K.; Hall, C; Peckover, S.; Pithouse, A. (2009) Whither practice-near research in the modernization programme? Policy blunders in children's services, Journal of Social Work Practice: Psychotherapeutic Approaches in Health, Welfare and the Community, Volume 23 Issue 4, 401.

Pithouse A, Broadhurst K, Hall C, Peckover S, White S. (2009) ‘Engaging early in children's needs through the common assessment framework (CAF): New challenges for practice in England and Wales’, International Journal of Child Health and Human Development, 2(4), 00.

Blyth, E. Shardlow, S. M., Masson, H., Lyons, K., Shaw, I. and White, S. (2009) 'Measuring the Quality of Peer-Reviewed Publications in Social Work: Impact Factors—Liberation or Liability?', Social Work Education, 99999:1.

Pithouse, A., Hall, C., Peckover, S., & White, S. (2009). A Tale of Two Cafs: The Impact of the Electronic Common Assessment Framework. British Journal of Social Work, 39(4), 599-612. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcp020

White, S. (2009) ‘Fabled Uncertainty in Social Work: A Coda to Spafford et al.’., Journal of Social Work, 9, 2: 222-235.

White, S.; Hall, C. and Peckover, S. (2008) The Descriptive Tyranny of the Common Assessment Framework: Technologies of Categorization and Professional Practice in Child Welfare, British Journal of Social Work, Advance Access published April 16, 2008.

Peckover, S., Hall, C. and White, S. (2008) From policy to practice: the implementation and negotiation of technologies in everyday child
welfare, Children & Society. [Online Early Access doi:10.1111/j.1099-0860.2008.00143.x].

Peckover, S., White, S. and Hall, C. (2008) Making and Managing Electronic Children: e-Assessment in Child Welfare, Information, Communication and Society, 11:3, 375 – 394.

Connolly, M, Hall, C., Peckover, S. and White, S. (2007) ‘E-technology and information sharing in child welfare: learning from the English experience’ Children Australia, 32, 4: 4-7.

Balen, R and White, S. (2007) Making Critical Minds: Nurturing ‘Not-Knowing’ in Students of Health & Social Care, Social Work Education, 26 (2).

Taylor C. and White, S. (2006) Knowledge and Reasoning in Social Work: Educating for Humane Judgement, British Journal of Social Work, 35: 1-18.