Jonathan Dickens


  • 1.13 Lawrence Stenhouse Building

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Personal profile

Areas of Expertise

Child care law and care proceedings; social work and social policy; international aspects of developing social work services for children and families.


Teaching Interests

BA and MA in Social Work

Social Policy and Social Work Law

Research Supervision

Jonathan is a supervisor for research students working on any of his three main areas of interest – child care social work and the law, social work and social policy, and the international dimensions of professional social work, especially child care work.

We welcome UK and international students and Jonathan has experience of supervising PhD students from the UK, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Jordan.

[If you are interested in completing a research degree in the areas outlined above, please click here]



Jonathan Dickens is Professor of Social Work. He joined the School in 1998, and served as head of the school from 2016-21. Before coming to UEA, Jonathan worked in London as a local authority social worker and then as a legal adviser, advising and acting on behalf of the local authority in court proceedings relating to children. From 1994 to 1997 he lived and worked in Romania, as a trainer and consultant to teams of Romanian social workers. Jonathan's research interests focus on the interface of social work, social policy and the law, particularly as they apply for child protection, care proceedings and children in care.

Jonathan is the author of two leading textbooks for social work students, both published by Routledge: 'Social Work and Social Policy: An Introduction' (2nd ed 2016) and 'Social Work, Law and Ethics' (2013). He has also written numerous research reports and papers - see the publications section for more information.

Key Research Interests

Jonathan's main research interests are in the fields of child and family social work, social policy and the law; and the development of professional social work, especially for children and families, in its international context.

Jonathan's interest in social work and the law arises out of his professional background as a Social Worker and Child Care Legal Adviser. Jonathan is especially interested in the inter-professional relationships between local authority social work staff and lawyers in child care cases, and he has a number of publications on this topic.

Jonathan's interest in the social policy contexts of professional social work has its origins in a long-standing interest in philosophy (what is ‘equality’ or ‘justice’? What do we mean by notions such as ‘the good society’?), his experiences as a social work practitioner, and his time working in Romania as a Social Work Trainer and Consultant. Jonathan's books on Social Work and Social Policy, and Social Work, Law and Ethics, explore such ideas and apply them to contemporary social work in England.

Jonathan's time in Romania was the starting point for his third area of research, the international aspects of social work, especially services for children and families. He has written on the development of social services for children in Romania, and the complex impact of inter-country adoption on Romania’s child welfare system. From 2012-16, Jonathan was part of a four-country study of 'legitimacy and fallibility in child welfare services', working with colleagues from Norway, Finland and the USA (California). This was a thought-provoking study of the different approaches to child protection policy and practice in the four countries, what we can learn from the other systems and the insights that cross-national research gives into one's own system.  

Over the period 2020-22, Jonathan led a joint research team from UEA and the University of Birmingham, on four studies of local reviews of serious child abuse cases in England and the learning from them. There was the final government-commissioned periodic overview of 'serious case reviews' (2017-19); an overview of the learning from all nine of the periodic overviews (covering cases going back to 1998); and the first two annual reviews of 'local child safeguarding practice reviews' (2020 and 2021 - these have replaced serious case reviews). 

Current and recent research projects:

Establishing Outcomes of Care Proceedings for Children Before and After Care Proceedings Reform (2015-18)


Track and evaluate the outcomes of the Triborough care proceedings pilot (2015-16)


Legitimacy and fallibility in child welfare services (four country study)


Investigation of care planning and the role of the IRO (2012-14)

Evaluation of the Tri-Borough Care Proceedings Pilot (2012–2013)

Partnership by Law? The Pre-Proceedings process for families on the edge of care proceedings (2010–2012)

Looked after children partnership project (2000-03)




Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or