Dr Julie Ridley

Dr. Julie Ridley

Reader in Social Policy and Practice

School of Social Work, Care and Community

Harrington Building, HA225

+44 (0) 1772 89 3402


Julie joined the School of Social Work as senior research fellow in September 2006. Prior to this she was an independent researcher/evaluator, and has held a number of research, information technology and development posts in local government, in independent sector organisations including BASW. Originally from the North West, she has spent over 20 years working in health and community care research in Scotland and has a PhD from Edinburgh University.

Julie is a member of the Centre for Citizenship and Community.

Full Profile

Since joining the School in 2006, Julie has been commissioned, and has managed studies for Scottish Government of early implementation of new mental health legislation; Self-Directed Support (SDS) test sites (alongside Dr Helen Spandler); and identifying good practice in supported employment. Together with Dr John Wainwright, Julie was commissioned by Action for Children to evaluate the effectiveness of ethnic matching in adoption services run by this agency.

She has also been a significant contributor to other major research studies in the School for the Disability Rights Commission examining disclosure of disability in social work, nursing and teaching; the national evaluation of Social Work Practice pilots in England for the Department of Education; and a collaborative study with the School of Health reviewing the quality of Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) under the 2007 Mental Health Act for Department of Health.

Julie’s research work has been mainly in the broad area of health and community care. More specifically her work has focused on disability issues, particularly policy and practice developments in learning disability and mental health. Her interest in service user perspectives and participatory methods led to involvement in research studies examining young people’s perspectives, for example, of mental health or of school meals, and she has been involved in several projects exploring experiences of looked-after children and care leavers. Beginning as a research assistant with North West MIND in 1982, she has since held several research positions including with the British Association of Social Work (BASW), with Lothian, Tayside and Dundee City Councils, with Scottish Health Feedback (an independent research consultancy), and as a self-employed researcher and evaluator.

She spent two years working as a social care officer with adults with learning disabilities in core and cluster projects both in Preston and North Tyneside, before becoming national research officer for the British Association of Social Workers in 1985. Moving to Scotland in 1987, she moved into research, planning and policy roles in local authorities and has been responsible for coordinating local community care planning until 2000. After gaining a PhD from Edinburgh University in 2000, she left to become senior research consultant for Scottish Health Feedback, an independent company, and in 2003 she set up her own research company.

PhD. Social Work & Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, 2000
BA (Hons), Applied Social Sciences, Preston Polytechnic, 1982


Ridley, Julie and Wainwright, John Peter (2013) Themes, Issues and Practice Dilemmas in Ethnically Matched Adoption Placements. The International Journal of Diverse Identities, 12 (2). pp. 25-36.

Ridley, Julie and Hunter , Susan (2013) Subjective experiences of compulsory treatment from a qualitative study of early implementation of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment)(Scotland) Act 2003. Health and Social Care in the Community, 21 (5). pp. 509-518.

Ridley, Julie, Spandler, Helen, Rosengard, A, Little, S, Cornes, M, Manthorpe, J, Hunter, S, Kinder, T and Gray, Bill (2011) Evaluation of self directed support test sites in Scotland. Project Report. The Scottish Government, Edinburgh.

Newbigging, Karen, Ridley, Julie, Mckeown, Michael, Machin, Karen, Poursanidou, Konstantina, Able, Laura, Cruse , Kaaren, Grey , Paul, de la Haye, Stephanie, Habte-Mariam, Zemichael, Joseph , Doreen, Kiansumba, Michelle and Sadd, June (2012) The Right to Be Heard: Review of Independent Mental Health Advocate Services in England. Project Report. Department of Health and University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.

Read more journal articles.

Read more book chapters.

Read more project reports.

Read more conference papers.

Teaching activities and responsibilities

Julie teaches about research and evaluation, ethics and politics in research and participatory research on a number of courses for the Masters in Social Work, in particular on the research and dissertation modules. She also teaches about employment and disability and advocacy on undergraduate courses including the BA in Social Work degree Learning Disability module and the BA Community and Social Care: Policy and Practice degree Disability Module. Julie has contributed to teaching for the PG qualification for AMHPs.

She is Director of Studies for, and on supervisory teams of, a number of PhD students in the School, and supervises final year MASW student dissertations


Examining the support forensic (secure) services to carers/relatives in Scotland.

Evaluating Self-Directed Support Test Sites in Scotland

Early Experiences and Perspectives on the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act

Evaluating the Quality of Independent Mental Health Advocate Services in England

Ethnic Matching and Adoption

National evaluation of Social Work Practices

Disclosure of Disability Study in Social Work, Teaching and Nursing

Social Media


External Activities

Julie is a reviewer for the journals of International Social Work, Health & Social Care in the Community and the International Journal of Diversity. She is a member of Values into Action Scottish Committee. She is currently the School of Social Work rep on the editorial board for Community Living magazine, which the School supports. She remains involved with the ‘circles of support’ project she founded in Dundee Scotland in 1990 and until its close, was research mentor through the Communities Scotland Scottish Community Action Research Fund (SCARF) programme, which promoted community led participatory action research projects.

While employed at Dundee City Council and Tayside Region Social Work Departments Julie served on various management committees both Scotland-wide and local including Direct Payments Scotland, independent advocacy management boards, Mental Health Steering Group, and ADSW Older People’s Services Committee. Julie has chaired management committees in the voluntary sector and was convenor of the Scottish SSRG committee during 1994-1996.


2013 Exploring the impact of legislative reform regarding compulsory treatment on professionals’ relationship with service users and their carers and (2) Discursive spaces - Factors influencing the contribution of independent advocacy to improving communication with mental health professionals papers to be given at ENMESH conference, Verona, 3-5 October

The Right to be Heard! Review of the quality of mental health advocacy in England, paper at 2nd Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference Aberdeen in May.

An invited keynote on the research on Self-Directed Support test sites in Scotland for the Self-Directed Support. The Future for Personalised Services conference run by Holyrood Conferences, Edinburgh in May.

Social Work Expo – Scottish Government Conference in Edinburgh – Presentation of findings from the evaluation of the SDS test sites in April.

Challenges and issues in implementing choice, flexibility and control in social care services – an evaluation of self-directed support pilots in Scotland to be presented at the 3rd European Social Work and Social Care Research Conference, Jyvaskyla, Finland in March.

2012 Paper given at the International Diversity Conference, Vancouver, Canada - Themes, Issues & Practice Dilemmas in Ethnic Matching in Adoption.

Black families for black children? - research seminar at UCLan as part of seminar series.

Invited presentation at the Making Research Count Seminar at York University - The Right to be Heard: Review of the Quality of IMHA Services in England.

Presentation at Authenticity to Action UCLan conference, Preston - Service user involvement in University based mental health research.

Presentation at Dept of Health INVOLVE conference, Nottingham - Experience and perspectives on user involvement in mental health research.

Presentation of the evaluation of Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act at the Mental Health Research @UCLAN group.

Presentation to Dept of Health national meeting about mental health research agenda on Right to Be Heard: IMHA research.

Presentation to Health and Social Care Services professionals, service users and advocates with Lancs NHS Foundation Trust on the Right to be Heard research.

2011 Keynote at SDS Test Sites Stakeholder Evaluation event, Glasgow.

Experience of Compulsory Treatment – research seminar at UCLan as part of seminar series

Black families for black children? Workshop at the 1st European Social Work and Social Care Research Conference, Oxford

2010 Workshop presentation – Service Users’ accounts of compulsory treatment – at Qualitative Mental Health Research Conference, Nottingham.

2009 Invited keynote at Making Research Count Conference on Direct Payments research in Scotland, UCLan/Lancashire County Council

2008 Presentation at International Disability Conference, Lancaster University, Sept 08 on disclosing disability and poster presentation on involving service users in research in mental health.

Invited Chairperson, Employment Conference featuring St George’s NHS Trust, Dundee

Invited Workshop, Findings from research about employment, VIAS Conference, Glasgow

2007 Workshop in collaboration with VIAS, Employment Research Findings, Turnberry, Scotland.

2006 Research into Employment Support in Scotland, Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities Make it Your Business Conference, Glasgow.

2005 Invited Seminar, Employment Support for People with Developmental Disabilities and Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Scotland, Projects for Community Inclusion and the Institute for Children, Youth and Families, Michigan State University, USA.

Invited Workshop, Clubhouses in Scotland: Some Findings from Research, 7th Annual Michigan State Clubhouse Conference, Michigan, USA.

2003  Invited paper, Health issues for young people leaving care, BAAF Adoption and Fostering annual Medical Group Conference.

Invited paper, Health needs of young people in foster care, Glasgow, What Works for Us Conference.

Invited seminar, Findings from research into the health needs of young people in foster care in Glasgow, Big Step Health Group.


Julie’s research and evaluation work has focused on aspects of implementation of health and community care policy, participation and involvement, and has been particularly concerned with exploring the difference between rhetoric and experience, including both qualitative and quantitative studies:

  • Examining the support of forensic (secure) services to carers/relatives in Scotland
  • Examining aspects of normalisation and social inclusion outcomes of community care services e.g. the impact of supported employment on quality of life; experience of social inclusion and recovery approaches in mental health and learning disability services.
  • Health-related projects including studies of young people’s perceptions of mental health and illness; men’s and young people’s perceptions of primary care services.
  • Policy and service evaluations in health, education, drug and alcohol services, learning disabilities, mental health, children and young people, and, service user and public participation.
  • Needs assessments e.g. for learning disability services, housing and support needs regarding chronic alcohol problems and/or alcohol related brain damage, health of young people in care and in foster care.
  • Policy research including studies of self directed support (SDS) in Scotland; early experience of the implementation of the Mental Health Act (Care & Treatment) Scotland, 2003; the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000; provision of free personal care in Scotland; and the feasibility of Direct Payments to people with mental health problems.
  • Writing best practice guidance for commissioners of services supporting people with learning disabilities and/or ASD in real jobs for Jobcentre Plus.
  • Literature reviews focusing on barriers and facilitators to SDS; user and public involvement in health services; best practice in supported employment; multiple and complex needs; and Clubhouses.
  • Homelessness e.g. review of the future of hostels for homeless people in Scotland; investigating hospital discharge arrangements for homeless people.

Most recently Julie was project lead alongside Dr Helen Spandler, on a study for the Scottish Government evaluating the self-directed support test sites in Scotland including a follow-up study, and was part of multidisciplinary research teams involving other universities and peer researchers reviewing implementation of Independent Mental Health Advocacy under the Mental Health Act, 2007, and the piloting of Social Work Practices under the Children Act.

Her PhD thesis (1990) – Mixed Fortunes: A Qualitative Study of Supported Employment and Quality of Life - used a phenomenological approach to investigate the impact of supported employment on the lives of adults with learning disabilities: to explore the subjective experience of securing a job through supported employment and its meaning for individuals, particularly focusing on the reality of anticipated outcomes such as social integration and a better quality of life.

Her broad research interests include:

  • Experiences of new developments in community care policy and practice including direct payments and personalisation and self-directed support.
  • Supported employment and learning disability.
  • Implementation of mental health law
  • The impact of social inclusion policy
  • Development of person-centred services
  • Quality of life issues and measurement
  • Participatory action research and peer research