Children, Familes and Young People, disability, disability research, Familes and Young People

PhD Funding: Towards adulthood: exploring transitions to adulthood for young people with learning disabilities in a devolving Greater Manchester


Project summary

The interdisciplinary project will explore ‘transitions’ of young people with learning disabilities to adulthood in Greater Manchester.  The participatory study will build on previous research (Big Society? Disabled people with learning disabilities and civil society, ESRC funded) and will enhance pathways to impact for the impact narrative allied to this research.

Project aims and objectives

The Children and Family Act (2014), which followed the publication of Support and Aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability (DfE, 2011), was intended to improve transitions for young people with learning disabilities into adulthood.  The introduction of Education, Health and Care Plans, that document children and young people’s support needs from birth to 25, were specifically designed to end the so-called ‘cliff edge’ that had been identified for young people with learning disabilities who found themselves transitioning to adulthood often without adequate services and support.

The transition to Education, Health and Care plans in Greater Manchester is still on going and the impact of the changes as a result of the Children and Families Act are unknown.  However, research suggests (Hatton, 2015) that many young people who have been identified with Special Educational Needs are still lost in transition to adult services.  Thresholds for accessing adult social care, following the Care Act, 2014, are rising and the Devolution Manchester agenda will also result in a huge shake up in the way that education, health and social care are delivered.  This timely research will explore the following objectives:

  1. To explore the social construction of ‘learning disability’ and ‘adulthood’ in the lives of young people in transition;
  2. To explore the policy and cultural contexts of transitions for young people with learning disabilities in the context of devolution Greater Manchester;
  3. To understand the nature of the support that young people with learning disabilities receive in transition;
  4. To explore examples of ‘good practice’ in transition in Greater Manchester;
  5. To develop an evidence base to inform policy and practice in Greater Manchester, regionally and nationally, in relation to transition for young people with learning disabilities.

The objectives will be met through the following research phases

  1. Review of literature on ‘learning disability’, ‘adulthood’,  ‘transition’ and ‘devolution’ Greater Manchester (Aim 1 & 2)
  2. To work in coproduction with young people with learning disabilities, their families and allies to understand their experiences of transition. (We envisage that research will draw on range of multi-media methods to work collaboratively with a diverse range of young people) (Aims 3 & 4)
  3. Analysis (Aim 5)
  4. Dissemination & impact generation activities, including policy focused summary cards and briefing papers. (Aim 5)

The proposed project builds on existing research within The Research Centre for Social Change: Community Wellbeing and offers pathways to impact from the Research Centre.

This application has the support of Manchester People’s First, an advocacy organization led by people with learning disabilities in Manchester and Breakthrough UK, a disabled people led organization in Manchester.

The research team will work with the student to co-author high quality journal articles (REF 2020).

The research team is led by Katherine Runswick-Cole, an experienced disability researcher, supported by Sue Caton, an established researcher and PhD supervisor with a PhD in transitions for young people with learning disabilities (completed 2003), and Leanne Rimmer, a new member of the Psychology staff at MMU who has an interest in housing and wellbeing.   The supervisory team exceeds the requirements for completions at MMU.

Specific requirements of the project


  • Good honours degree (or equivalent) in social care, psychology, sociology, disability studies, education or related discipline
  • Masters level qualification or equivalent professional experience


  • Proven record of strong organisational skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Good team working skills
  • Good interpersonal skills and strong negotiating skills
  • Good IT skills
  • Evidence of ability to work collaboratively and to work on own initiative
  • High level of motivation

Knowledge & Experience

  • Genuine desire to pursue PhD study and to develop their skills as a researcher
  • Knowledge and understanding of the challenges facing young people with learning disabilities in transition to adulthood
  • Knowledge and understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Experience of paid and/or voluntary work alongside people with learning disabilities
  • Developing knowledge and understanding of disability studies
  • Developing knowledge and understanding of the Devolution Greater Manchester context
  • Developing knowledge and understanding of participatory and multi-media research methods
  • Developing knowledge of public engagement activities and pathways to impact

Student eligibility

UK, EU and international students

Supervisory Team

Informal enquiries can be made to:

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole, Director of Studies
Tel: +44 (0)161 247 2906

Dr Sue Caton

Children, Familes and Young People, Critical Theory, DRF News, Events and Conferences, Media and Culture

Reminder: Next DRF Seminar – Thurs. 13th Mar (2pm-4pm)

When: Thursday, 13th March 2014: 2pm-4pm – Arundel 10111 (SHU)

Where: Arundel Room 10111 (SHU) [the Arundel Building = 122 Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB.  For a map of City Campus click here.]

Everyone welcome!

Slot 1: Cassie Ogden (Univ. of Chester, UK): Troubling Borders with Bodies that Seep: an critical sociological exploration into children’s experiences of leaky realities and how we can learn to accept our bodies in all its leaky glory.

Slot 2: Jenny Slater (SHU): School Toilet Chat: Exploring how Issues of Space, Access, Embodiment, Identity and ‘Normal’ Function in the the Lives of Young People

For George (2011), toilets are “the big necessity”; a mundane part of life that, until absent or inadequate, we rarely pay attention. One place these facilities are consistently found to be inadequate are in schools (Burton, 2013, Greed, 2010). Vernon, Lundblad and Hellstrom (2003) reported that 62% of boys and 35% of in the UK avoided using toilets whilst at school (citing reasons of lack of hygiene, privacy and bullying); and in 2013, a study in Scotland similarly highlighted the poor state of school toilet (Burton, 2013). Here I seek feedback on a proposal which hopes to utilise theorisations of disability, queer and fat activists and academics, to think hard about school toilets as transdisciplinary spaces to explore how issues of space, access, embodiment and normal function in the lives of young people.


Children, Familes and Young People, Critical Theory, Disability Studies and..., Events and Conferences, Inclusion, Majority/Minority Worlds, Policy and Legislation

Book Launch: Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: Critical Approaches in a Global Context

The Birkbeck Centre for Medical Humanities invites you to a book launch with wine reception for Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies: Critical Approaches in a Global Context edited by Tillie Curran and Katherine Runswick-Cole.

6pm-8pm, Friday 31st January

Peltz Gallery, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, Birkbeck, University of London, WC1H 0PD

Free and open to all, but registration required. Please email Harriet Cooper to register ( Book Launch on Fri 31 Jan_’Disabled Children’s Childhood Studies’


Children, Familes and Young People, Disability Studies and..., Inclusion, Majority/Minority Worlds, Publications

New book: Youth Responding to Lives: an International Reader

Youth: Responding to Lives – An International Reader

Edited by Andrew Azzopardi

Part of the Studies in Inclusive Education series edited by Roger Slee

Including a chapter by DRF member, Jenny Slater: Playing Grown-up: Using Critical Disability Perspectives to Rethink Youth

This book draws from various fields of knowledge, in an effort to theorise, create new and innovative conceptual platforms and develop further the hybrid idea of discourses around social inclusion and youth (from policy, practice and research perspectives).

Youth: Responding to lives – An international handbook attempts to fill the persistent gap in the problematisation and understanding of inclusion, communalism, citizenship – that are intertwined within the complex youth debate. It writhes and wriggles to highlight the interconnections between the encounters, events and endeavors in young people’s lives.

The focus of this edited work is also intended to help us understand how young people shape their development, involvement, and visibility as socio-political actors within their communities. It is this speckled experience of youth that remains one of the most electrifying stages in a community’s lifecycle.

Contributors to this text have engaged with notions around identity and change, involvement, social behavior, community cohesion, politics and social activism. The chapters offer an array of critical perspectives on social policies and the broad realm of social inclusion/exclusion and how it affects young people.

This book essentially analyses equal opportunities and its allied concepts, including inequality, inequity, disadvantage and diversity that have been studied extensively across all disciplines of social sciences and humanities but now need a youth studies ‘application’.

Children, Familes and Young People, Disability Studies and..., Events and Conferences, Uncategorized

Call for Papers: ‘Time for Change? Child, Youth, Family and Disability Conference’, MMU


Elizabeth Gaskell Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University, Hathersage Road, Manchester, UK, M13 0JA

10.30 – 4.00pm, 18th & 19th June, 2013

The aim of the conference is to provide a space for disabled children, young people, family members and allies(including practitioners) to share their ideas, knowledge and expertise and to celebrate disabled children and young people’s lives.  We would like to invite disabled children, young people, their parents and carers (we would like to include people with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments as well as those people with mental health issues), as well as activists and academics in the field of disability studies and childhood studies to present at and to attend the event.  This year’s conference theme is ‘Time for Change?’  We are inviting contributors to talk about changes in the lives of children, young people and their families and suggest that you might like to address some of the following questions:

  • what has changed?
  •  how have you been involved in changing lives?
  • what changes would you like to see?
  • what are the barriers to and opportunities for change?

Day One will include accessible presentations and discussion points as well as opportunities to take part in workshop activities (further details to follow).

Day Two will include more formal presentations but we will particularly welcome presentations or discussion papers that tell a story, share a skill, some information or research in ways that try to be as accessible and creative as possible – for example, that use a range of presentations styles and media including photography, video and artwork.


To book your place visit:

We ask that you please register, stating any access requirements, two weeks before the event.


Please send us a short description of the ideas for your presentation by 10th May, 2013.

Travel & Parking

Travel information available at:

Parking is not available at Gaskell (except for blue badge holders) but there are car parks nearby, or catch the 147 bus from Piccadilly Station, ask for the Hathersage Road stop.


PLEASE NOTE: as this is a FREE event, we will not be providing refreshments.  Please bring your own or it will be possible to purchase food at the campus refectory.


For more information please contact: or 0161 247 2906.

Children, Familes and Young People, Disability Studies and..., Events and Conferences

Reminder of the next DRF themed seminar: Youth and Disability, Wednesday 9th Jan, 12-2

A reminder that the next DRF seminar will be on Wednesday 9th January 2013 12pm-2pm in Arundel 10111.The theme of this seminar is ‘Youth and Disability’.

Slot 1: Jenny Slater (Department of Education, Childhood and Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University, UK): “You’re not, I mean… I know you’re not, but I have to ask, you’re not… sexually active, are you?” Youth, disability, sexuality.


The quote I use to frame this paper comes out of my PhD research with young disabled people. It captures the troubled and troubling response that Molly, a young disabled woman, received from a doctor when requesting the contraceptive pill on sporting grounds. Furthermore, it illustrates the dangerous tying of disability to a discourse of asexuality; a discourse which works to sustain the positioning of disabled people’s bodies as a) childlike (Hall, 2011), b) asexual (Garland-Thomson, 2002; Liddiard, 2012), and c) the property of others, to be subject to intervention (Barton, 1993; McCarthy, 1998). For young disabled people, particularly young women, this is dangerous. In this paper I share more stories from my fieldwork in order to work through messy discourses of youth, disability and sexuality.  I use these stories to question Disability Studies and, to a lesser extent, popular media normalisation of issues concerning disability, disabled youth, gender and sexuality, stressing the importance of transdisciplinary conversation.

Slot 2: Ezekiel Isanda Oweya: (Centre for Rehabilitation Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa): Experiences of African disabled youth living in rural Rift Valley to find and sustain livelihoods


Venue: The seminar will be held in the Arundel Building, 122 Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB.  For a map of City Campus click here.

If you, or anybody you know, would like to present at a DRF seminar please do get in touch.  Alternatively, let us know if there is an issue/article/book you’d like to facilitate a round table discussion on.

Even if you do not intend to present, feel free to come along, listen and share your thoughts.   For lunchtime slots, please feel free to bring your own food and drink.

We aim to be accessible and have produced some guidelines of which we would like presenters to be mindful – these can be accessed here: Accessible Presenting

To offer to present, facilitate a discussion or for more detailed access information please contact: Rebecca Mallett: or 0114 225 4669 or Jenny Slater: or 0114 225 6691.

Children, Familes and Young People, DRF News

Press Release: Disabled children do matter

Many disabled children fail to reach their full potential because they continue to be marginalised in schools, health and social care, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Go to ‘Disabled children do matter’ to view the full release.

Children, Familes and Young People, DRF News

Inquiry announced into the implementation of the right to independent living for disabled people (UK)

Those of you in the UK interested in the impact of funding restrictions on the right to independent living may be interested to know that the parliamentary Joint Committee of Human Rights (chaired by Dr Hywel Francis MP) is conducting an inquiry into the implementation of the right to independent living for disabled people, as guaranteed by Article 19, UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Committee invites interested persons and groups to submit evidence on this issue and would welcome written submissions by Friday 29th April 2011.  

The Committee particularly welcomes submissions from disabled people and their families about independent living and how Government policies, practices and legislation or the activities of public authorities and others can implement the right to independent living in practice.

Further information about the Committee’s inquiry, together with questions the Committee intends to address can be found here.

In other related news, as part of the recently published Welfare Reform Bill, the UK government has delayed its decision to remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people living in residential care homes.  Find out more about Mencap’s campaign to protect the DLA mobility component here.

Children, Familes and Young People

Exploring ‘Children, Families and Disability’ Events

We thought we’d share some more details for the trilogy of *FREE!*events focusing on ‘children, families and disability’ at MMU.   For more information from the organissrs and/or register your attendance please email Katherine Runswick-Cole:

Event 1: Debates in Disability Studies Symposium II: Parenting Disabled Children

Date: 16th March 2011 ~ 11am-3.30pm

Venue: New Lecture Theatre, Gaskell Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. 

Brief Description:  This symposium is the second in a series of events that will reflect on some of the current theoretical and political debates facing disability studies in the UK. It is free to attend and will be of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers of disability studies and related subjects and disability activists.

 Confirmed speakers and papers include:

  • ”I just want some peace in my life’: emotional labour and ‘care’ work in mothering a disabled child’ ~ Chrissie Rogers (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • ”Basically I had a baby and it has completely and utterly affected every area of my life’: Saying the unthinkable in disability studies ~Sara Ryan (Oxford University)
  • ‘Response paper’ ~ Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Event 2: Critical Disability Studies Conference: Child, Family and Disability

Date: 5th April 2011 ~ 10am-4pm

Venue: New Lecture Theatre, Gaskell Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. 

Brief Description:  Call for Papers: This conference brings together an international group of disability studies researchers. This call for papers seeks contributions around the following areas:

  • Challenging the psychologisation of childhood
  • Making sense of normal and normalcy
  • Making sense of and challenging ableism
  • Questioning concepts of ‘good parenting’
  • Intersections of child, gender, class, ethnicity, ability
  • Exploring policy conceptions of child and disability
  • Bringing together ideas from the human and social sciences and humanities

Deadline for paper abstracts: 28th February 2011
Deadline for attendance: 31st March 2011

Event 3: ‘Does Every Child Matter, Post-Blair’: The Interconnections of Disabled Childhoods’ – End of Project Conference

Date: 6th April 2011 ~ 10am-4pm

Venue: New Lecture Theatre, Gaskell Campus, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. 

Project and conference funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-062-23-1138)

Brief Description:  The aim of this conference is to introduce and discuss the findings of the project: ‘Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair?: The interconnections of disabled childhoods’.  The project has explored what it is like to be a disabled child in post-Blair England.  Findings touch on the following key issues:

  • Children’s voices
  • Parents/carers’ views
  • Enabling professional practice
  • Policy for disabled children
  • Methodological approaches
  • Disabled child in the Coalition era

The conference will include keynotes by: Professor Dan Goodley and Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole (Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Janice McLaughlin (Newcastle University) and Dr Angharad Beckett (Leeds University)

Deadline for paper abstracts: 28th February 2011
Deadline for attendance: 31st March 2011  


Children, Familes and Young People, DRF News, Events and Conferences

Reminder of the next DRF seminar and more…

Just a little reminder that the next DRF seminar will be held on Tuesday 15th February 2011 (1pm-3pm) in Room 10111 (First Floor) Arundel Building, Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB.


  • “How to approach group work among men labelled with ‘learning difficulties’: Should the ultimate goal be participative to improve health instead of being emancipative?” ~ Michael Richards (Department of Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)

In this paper, I will explore the best approaches that should be taken with groups of men, particularly the positive effects of using a participative approach. This does not mean rejecting the goal of providing the space for men to be ‘emancipated’, which should still be the ultimate goal, but by being participative, men can still be in control, make decisions and improve their health’. 

  •  “A Review of ‘Designing our Own Asylums’: A Research Project” ~ Mike Walker (Department of Social Science, University of Hull, UK)

This will be an overview of research based upon an ‘observant participant’ method. The fieldwork took place within both secure residential care and a family in which the researcher lived as a full member. The paper will explore how the researcher’s position as someone with complex needs but also academically trained allowed access to areas normally unreachable to researchers. 

An array of *FREE!*events have also been added to the ‘Other Events‘ page including:

  • Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Forum (23rd February 2011)
  • Debates in Disability Studies Symposium II: Parenting Disabled Children (16th March 2011)
  • Critical Disability Studies Conference: Child, Family and Disability (5th April 2011)
  • Does Every Child Matter, Post-Blair’: The Interconnections of Disabled Childhoods’ – End of Project Conference (6th April 2011)