Dr Peter Unwin


Principal Lecturer, Social Work

Department of Social Work and Paramedic Science

Contact Details

email: p.unwin@worc.ac.uk
tel: 01905 85 5126

I have enjoyed a long and varied career in social work, specialising in safeguarding, foster care and service user and carer (SUAC) involvement. I began my career in residential care in South Africa in the days of apartheid and this era of oppression fired me up with a strong sense of social justice. I went on to qualify as a social worker in the UK and moved into senior management and inspection roles with local authorities.

I have also run my own business in domiciliary care for adults and children and worked / volunteered for a range of voluntary sector organisations as well as having been a foster carer.

I have been at the University of Worcester since 1999 and been part of its growth and diversification, having been particularly associated with safeguarding and the inclusion of carers and service users. I have also travelled widely and spoken at several international conferences, being interested to learn how differently similar social problems are tackled elsewhere.

Applying research to practice is a great interest of mine and I keep close to practice in a variety of ways, including being Chair of the Worcestershire Branch of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), with whom the university has a long-standing relationship.


PhD University of Warwick
PGCE University of Huddersfield
MSc Social Services Management, University of Lancaster
CQSW University of Wales
Diploma in Applied Social Studies, University of Wales
BA (Hons), University of East Anglia

Teaching & Research

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests are in the area of safeguarding, foster care and in the overall lived experiences of service users and carers. I facilitate the university’s IMPACT Service User and Carer group, and encourage their involvement in classroom teaching and assessment.

I teach across a range of disciplines and other Schools and try to model interdisciplinary respect in my teaching. We need to teach more and know more about each other’s professions if we are to produce new generations of health and care professionals who will work together in the interests of promoting welfare and avoiding tragedy. I use Carl Rogers’ approach to learner-centred teaching - A person cannot teach another person directly; a person can only facilitate another's learning (Rogers, 1951). I always strive to set an atmosphere in the classroom that encourages and enthuses learners to be passionate about my subjects and seek out more knowledge for themselves.

Research Interests

I am interested in the privatisation and marketisation of health and welfare services and the effects that these political doctrines have on relationship-based ways of working within local communities.

My PhD study concerned the role of Agency Social Workers, whose presence in the contemporary workforce is now significant, despite being little researched or understood. Child Sexual Exploitation and the many intriguing areas of foster care remain core research interests as does the challenges of co-producing research outputs with service users and carers. Working together with the University's IMPACT group of service users and carers we have begun to achieve successes in this largely unexplored area and have produced several publications and presented together at both national and international conferences.

I am currently working on two large scale research projects, in co-production with Disabled people – one is researching why so few Disabled people are recruited as foster carers and the other is exploring issues of disability within Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisations across the UK. The exclusion of parents from decision-making processes regarding children caught up in child sexual exploitation (CSE) has been core to some of my other recent research work.

I am always open to invitations to contribute to PhD supervisory teams in my specialist areas.

Professional Bodies

British Association of Social Workers
Health Care Professions Council
Winston Churchill Fellow


Recent Publications

Unwin, P., Torney, L. and Jones, A. (2019) ‘”Pace was a lifeline for us”. Evaluation of lottery funded parent participation and volunteer training programme’. Leeds. Research Report

Unwin, P., Torney, L. and Jones, A. (2018) ‘You must believe in yourself’, An evaluation of prevention services for ‘Keeping our Girls Safe’. Oldham. Research report

Misca,G. and Unwin, P. (2018) Child and Adolescent Psychology for Social Work

Rooney, J., Unwin, P. and Osborne, N. (2018) Gaining by giving? Peer research into service user and carer perceptions of inclusivity in Higher Education In McLaughlin, H, Duffy, J., McKeever, B. and Sadd, J. (2018) Service User Involvement in Social Work Education. London: Routledge

Rooney, J., Unwin, P. and Shah, P.  (2018) Keeping Us Grounded: Academic Staff Perceptions of Service User and Carer Involvement in Health and Social Work Training. Journal of Further and Higher Education. ISSN 0309-877X Online: 1469-9486 http://eprints.worc.ac.uk/6350/

Shennan, G. and Unwin, P. (2018) ‘The important thing is to keep fighting, and to fight with care, love, respect, and a passion for justice’. Professional Social Work, October 2018, pp.28-9. https://www.basw.co.uk/system/files/resources/d6f6236b-0a95-4e67-8445-8a76afcf5158.pdf

Rooney, J., Unwin, P. , Osborne, N. and  Cole, C. (2017) “Are Perceptions of Disability Changed by Involving Service Users and Carers in Qualifying  Health and Social Work Training?”, Disability & Society. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09687599.2017.1322498

Unwin, P., Rooney, J. and Cole, C. (2017) Service user and carer involvement in students’ classroom learning in Higher Education. Journal of Further and Higher Education.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0309877X.2017.1281886

Shennan, G. and Unwin, P. (2017) Social workers, Service Users and Austerity – A Common Cause, Professional Social Work, Feb. 2017, pp. 22-23

Misca, G. and Unwin, P. (2017) 'Psychology and Social Work. Applied perspectives.' London: Polity Press

Unwin, P., Rooney, J. and Cole, C. (2017 - in press) Service user and carer involvement in students classroom learning in Higher Education. Journal of Further and Higher Education

Unwin, P., Rooney, J. and Osborne, N. (2016): Gaining by giving? Peer research into service user and carer perceptions of inclusivity in Higher Education, Social Work Education.

Unwin, P and Stephens-Lewis, D. (2016) Evaluating the Health Implications of Childhood Sexual Exploitation on Parents. Pace: Report for Department of Health.

Unwin, P. (2016) Strategic Alliance between Service User and Carer Organisations and BASW The Debate. Strategic Report to BASW Council, Birmingham

Hayes, S. and Unwin, P. (2016) Comparing the Cultural Factors in the Sexual Exploitation of Young People in the UK and the USA: Insights for Social workers, Social Work Review / Revista de Asistenta Sociala 1/2016.

Unwin, P. and Stock, K. (2015) Report to Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board The Views of Parents and Carers whose children are involved in CSE.WSCB

Unwin, P. (2014) The Role of Agency Social Work in England, PhD Thesis: University of Warwick

Unwin, P. and Misca, G. (2013) The changing face of adoption in England: Opportunities and Dilemmas, Social Work Review / Revista de Asistenta Sociala 12(2).

Unwin. P and Osborne, N. (2012) The Involvement of service users in feedback systems for social work students: HEA Report.

Unwin. P. and Hogg, R. (2012) Effective Social Work with Children and Families. A Skills Handbook. Sage: London

Recent Conference Presentations


  • Parents Experiences The Health Impact of CSE, Named GP Conference, York (with Pace)
  • The Health Implications of Childhood Sexual Exploitation on Parents, 3rd. International Law Enforcement and Public Health International Conference, Amsterdam, Holland ( with Dr. D. Stephens-Lewis)
  • Transformative or Tokenistic - Can involving service users and carers (SUAC) in the training of health and social care professionals promote social justice?' (with Dr. J. Rooney). Social Justice:building a fairer, more equal society William Temple Foundation / University of Worcester.
  • Reimagining the social care workforce. Re-imagining Adult Social Care, Research into Practice Annual Conference, Birmingham (with I. Parkhill, IMPACT)
  • 'Social Workers and Service Users against Austerity Alliance (with ATD 4th World), Joint Social Work and Education conference (JSWEC). OU. Milton Keynes
  • Health Impact of CSE on Parents , The Dynamics of Sexual Violence and Abuse: Local, National and International Perspectives Conference, University of Worcester (with Dr. D. Stephens-Lewis)
  • Shame on You - Perceptions of CSE in a Rural County Herefordshire Safeguarding Children Board Conference, Hereford.


  • The impact of IMPACT reflections on the first seven years of a service user and carer (SUAC) group at the University of Worcester, UK. Wheres the Patients Voice in Health Care Education 10 Years on? University of British Columbia International Conference, Canada. (with Dr. J.Rooney)
  • You see them more as a person" - The impact of service user and carer involvement in student learning at an English University. Wheres the Patients Voice in Health Care Education 10 Years on? University of British Columbia International Conference, Canada. (with Dr. J.Rooney)
  • Current Challenges in English Social Work and Social Work Education, Christelijke Hogeschool, Ede, Netherlands. International Conference (with L.Parish)
  • Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth Perspectives on Domestic Violence Services for men. National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse Cross Cutting Issues Conference, University of Worcester.
  • Relationship- based Practice. Learning and Teaching Conference, University of Worcester (with Morgan, L and Zanca, R.)
  • National Working Group (NWG) Conference, East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham It doesnt happen here' Perspectives on CSE in a rural county (with Dr. G.Misca)

External Responsibilities

Member of Worcestershire Safeguarding Network
Adviser for Foster Care Independent Support Services
Chair of Worcestershire Branch of the  British Association of Social Workers ( BASW) 
Chair of Local Authority Fostering Panel
External Examiner, BA in Social Work, University of Swansea
External Examiner, BA and MA in Social Work, University of Portsmouth
Journal Reviewer - Health and Care in the Community   
Journal Reviewer - Social Work Education    
Journal Reviewer - Disability and Society     
Journal Reviewer - Health Expectations    
Book Reviewer Sage Publications Ltd