Amanda Shields

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I am currently a PhD in Social Work Candidate within the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, at Queens University Belfast. I am in the final few months of the degree and hope to submit my thesis by August 2021. My research has explored the relationship between homelessness and substance use in Northern Ireland which should offer greater insight into the apparent reciprocal nature of these social issues.

I am also a qualified social worker and graduated from Queens in 2015. Before I qualified and since becoming a social worker, I have worked within the homelessness and drug and alcohol sectors, working with both young people and adults. During the first two years of my PhD, I also volunteered in an organisation which provided therapeutic support to individuals and families who experienced difficulties with substance use.

After qualifying in social work, I worked as a programme manager for a project that supported people with addiction issues and who were at risk of becoming homeless, through floating support and a drop-in centre. During this time, I developed a curiosity to learn more about the relationship between homelessness and substance use and wanted to expand the evidence available on this topic in NI. From there I submitted a research proposal to study this topic at PhD level and was accepted into Queen’s. 



Research Focus

Thesis Title

An exploration of the relationship between homelessness and substance use in Northern Ireland.

Purpose of Thesis

This study is attempting to understand the demographic nature of homelessness and substance use in NI, whilst exploring the apparent reciprocal relationship between these issues. Through respondent perspectives and analysis of data, this research aims to provide up-to-date and relevant research for NI, to add to extant literature on these topics. Fundamentally, this study seeks to explore pathways to homelessness, particularly substance use and also the nature of substance use, while homeless.

This is a mixed-methods, three phase study with practitioners and service users in voluntary sector homeless services in NI.

This study is near completion and estimated date of thesis submission is 31st August 2021. We hope to share the research findings with the homeless sector in the near future.


SSESW Guest lecturer: OLE3101 Working with complexity (substance use and young people) - June 2021 


SSESW TA: Themes and Issues in Social Policy (level 1) - Jan – May 2019


SSESW TA: Social Work in Context (level 2) - Feb 2019


SSESW TA: Psychology for Social Work (level 1) - Feb/March 2019


SSESW TA: Social Work in Criminal Justice and the Courts (level 3) - Dec 2018


The Link Centre: Onsite supervisor to social work students on PLO - Jan 2013–May 2015


Research Interests

Homelessness, substance use and substance use disorders, mental health, social work education, qualitative methodology, mixed-methods, systematic and scoping reviews.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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