• Room 02.009 - Sociology and Social Work

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

- Children in care - Children’s rights and social work - Communication and relationships with Children - Experiences and outcomes of State care - Early intervention/family support


Research output per year

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Personal profile


Karen is a senior lecturer in social work. She gained a PhD in 2009 and has held an academic post at Queen’s University Belfast for 12 years. Prior to this she worked for 16 years in Northern Ireland as a child protection social worker in fieldwork teams and then as a manager. She was also employed by NIGALA (https://nigala.hscni.net), working as a social worker appointed by the courts to represent children in court proceedings. 

Research Statement

Focusing on children and young people in care, Karen’s research includes: communication and relationships with children and young people in care; their rights, needs and wellbeing; and the effectiveness and outcomes of services designed with and for children and young people in care. Karen is a fellow in the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/cesi/) and a member of the Centre for Children’s Rights at QUB (https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/CentreforChildrensRights/). She is the social policy, social work lead for NINEDTP https://www.ninedtp.ac.uk.

She is also an elected Board member of the European Social Work Research Association (https://www.eswra.org) which organises an annual international social work research conference attracting approximately 500-600 participants from over 40 countries (https://www.eswra.org/conference_main.php). As part of her role in ESWRA, she also chairs the Special Interest Group Committee which oversees the strategic development and activities of 21 SIGs with international membership (https://www.eswra.org/sig_main.php). 

Research Interests

Karen has been PI and CI on a range of projects that have combined qualitative and quantitative methodologies and that have explored children and young people in care and their experiences, views, relationships, wellbeing and outcomes. Funders have included the Economic and Social Research Council, the National Institute of Health Research, the European Union, government and voluntary organisations. She has been commissioned by a variety of bodies/organisations in a consultancy capacity. Recent and current projects include:

2018-2020 Reading Together, funded by the ESRC (https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/readingtogether/)

2017-2019 Participation 4 Protection, funded by the European Union (https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/participation-for-protection/

2019-2021 NIHR Early Childhood Development for Sustaining Peace (https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/links/

2016-2018 Talking and Listening to Children (http://www.talkingandlisteningtochildren.co.uk)

Karen has published widely in internationally renowned peer reviewed journals, commissioned reports and research briefings. Karen’s published work is known for its innovative qualitative methodologies, its exploration of children’s rights, its application of sociological theories and concepts to understanding the lives of children and young people in care and professional social work practice and its exploration of effectiveness and outcomes for children and young people in care. A significant amount is sole authored. Some of her research projects have attracted publicity in media and government. Her work is known internationally and she has been invited speaker in Canada (https://crecs.uottawa.ca/publications/noon-hour-colloquium and https://www.ocya.alberta.ca) Vietnam http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/ssesw/Discover/News/DevelopingSocialWorkinVietnam.html and India (http://www.tezu.ernet.in/event/National-Conclave-14-16-Dec-2019.pdf).


Leadership and management 

As part of her academic role, Karen has undertaken a variety of university management and leadership roles. These include: Programme Director for both an undergraduate social work programme (2009-2012) and a Professional Doctorate programme (2012-2018); and Director of Undergraduate Education for Social Sciences, Education and Social Work with overall responsibility for 600 undergraduate students on degree programmes in social policy, social work, criminology and sociology (2016-2019). 

In this capacity, Karen has also been a member of Senior Management Board, chaired exams boards, academic offences panels, and co-chaired Staff Student Consultative Committee meetings. She has also served on a number of Faculty wide and university wide committees and groups including: the Course and Regulations Group (2016-2019); the Gender Pay Gap working group (2018-2019) and the Collaborative Provisions Group (2017 – ongoing). 

Karen was recently appointed as Director of Education for Theology (2019-2021), a post that combines strategic and operational responsbilities. She is currently a member of the Faculty Undergraduate Education Committee; the Theology Management Board and chairs the theology Education and Postgraduate Committee. 

Karen’s also has significant experience of leadership and management roles in the community having been a non-executive member of the Board for NIGALA (2014-2019) and Chair of its Social Care Governance Committee (2014-2019) (https://nigala.hscni.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/NIGALA-ANNUAL-REPORT-and-ACCOUNTS-2018-19-Final-Published.pdf). She has chaired the advisory committee of Fostering Network NI (2014-2019) (https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/about/about-us/our-work-in-northern-ireland). She has also been a member of a working group hosted by NISCC to develop the Advanced Scholarship Award that professionally recognises doctoral level qualifications (https://niscc.info/news/295-professional-in-practice-awards).         


Karen is the academic lead on a University Widening Participation Unit (WPU) initiative, https://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/sgc/wpu/ReadingTogether/ that was shortlisted as a finalist in QUB Staff Excellence Awards (2018), the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust Chairman’s Recognition Awards (October, 2019) and the HE Academy NEON awards (May, 2019) where it received a commendation (https://www.educationopportunities.co.uk/neon-events/neon-awards/neon-awards-2019/).


Karen has received 2 QUB Teaching Awards (2012 and 2017).  (https://twitter.com/qubssesw/status/875369770513829888). Her work with trainee barristers and trainee social workers has also led to her and her co-convenor (Aine Maxwell, Institute Professional and Legal Studies) being shortlisted as finalists in the QUB SU Education Awards (2019). She has taught at under graduate, post graduate and doctoral level, designing modules, being a module convenor and carrying tutoring responsibilities. Currently she is responsible for SWK3008 Social work in criminal justice and the courts.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Karen Winter is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Research Output

From Communication to Co-operation: Re-conceptualizing Social Workers’ Engagement with Children

Ruch, G., Winter, K., Morrison, F., Hadfield, M., Cree, V. & Hallett, S., 01 Apr 2020, In : Child and Family Social Work. p. 1-16 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Honneth and positive identity formation in residential care.

    Marshall, G., Winter, K. & Turney, D., 01 Mar 2020, In : Child and Family Social Work. p. 1-28 28 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Relational social work

    Winter, K., 17 Jul 2019, Routledge Handbook of Social Work Theory. Payne, M. & Reith Hall, E. (eds.). London: Routledge, p. 1-10 10 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

    Open Access
  • Prizes

    Research Fellowship Award - University of Oxford.

    Karen Winter (Recipient), 01 Feb 2016

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively

  • Teaching Award - Queen's University Belfast.

    Karen Winter (Recipient), 01 Jun 2012

    Prize: Other distinction

  • Teaching Award - Queen's University Belfast.

    Karen Winter (Recipient), 30 Jun 2017

    Prize: Other distinction

  • Activities

    Dr Patricia Cox University New Hampshire USA

    Karen Winter (Host)
    27 May 201930 May 2019

    Activity: Hosting a visitor typesHosting an academic visitor

    New York New Belfast: Be the Bridge

    Karen Winter (Invited speaker)
    12 Jun 201914 Jun 2019

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

    Thủ Dầu Một University

    Karen Winter (Visiting lecturer)
    20 Mar 201931 Mar 2019

    Activity: Visiting an external institution typesResearch and Teaching at External Organisation

    Belgium, Leuven: European Social Work Research Conference

    Karen Winter (Contributor)
    10 Apr 201912 Apr 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

    Early Intervention Transformation programme - dissemination event

    Karen Winter (Invited speaker)
    23 Oct 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    Press / Media

    Talking to vulnerable children on their terms helps build trust.

    Gillian Ruch, Karen Winter, Viv Cree & Fiona Morrison


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research

    Irish-language schools conference to look at impact of `nurture' groups.

    Seaneen Sloan, Karen Winter, Fiona Lynn & Paul Connolly


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Research

    Northern Ireland Assembly - debate on nurture groups.

    Seaneen Sloan, Karen Winter, Fiona Lynn & Paul Connolly


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Research

    Northern Ireland Department of Education hailed nurture groups “highly successful”.

    Seaneen Sloan, Karen Winter, Fiona Lynn & Paul Connolly


    1 item of Media coverage

    Press/Media: Research

    Nurture groups improve social, emotional and behavioural outcomes for children.

    Seaneen Sloan, Karen Winter, Fiona Lynn & Paul Connolly


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Research