School of Social Work, Care and Community
Subject Areas: Social work, Sociology
Suzanne joined UCLan in spring 2014, after a background of working in mental health, ranging from community psychology to inpatient nursing. Her current research focus is challenging poverty (especially child poverty), through promoting youth citizenship and aspirations.
Suzanne is passionate about justice and equal opportunities, particularly in marginalised groups, such as those in poverty and those with mental health difficulties, and a majority of her professional experience has focused on these two areas.
Suzanne is a Research Fellow in Social Exclusion and Community Development at The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). The research agenda, which is in partnership with the Samuel Lindow Foundation and The Centre of Citizenship and Community, is to work with communities to identify effective and sustainable means of increasing community capital. Prior to this, Suzanne was a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate with the university, working with Inspira to research, development and deliver a family centred intervention to support parents in raising children’s aspirations. This received the ‘The John O’Donoghue Award for Research’ for excellence in educational research at UCLan. The intervention that was produced, ‘In This Together’, is currently funded by Cumbria County Council to be rolled out throughout West Cumbrian secondary schools, for two years.
Currently working towards a PhD, Suzanne was awarded a Commendation for her Msc Dissertation at Lancaster University, which explored community resilience in West Cumbria following the November 2010 floods and West Cumbrian Shootings of June 2011. This work was presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in 2014.
With over 10 years’ experience in mental health, Suzanne has worked with a range of local services such as Mind in West Cumbria, Whitehaven Community Trust and Psychological Services at WCH, and is trained in integrative counselling and brief solution focused coaching. Suzanne is passionate about social justice and equal opportunities, and is a member of the British Psychological Society, Social Policy Association, British Educational Research Association, West Cumbria Child Poverty Group, Academics Against Poverty and The Centre of Citizenship and Community.
In June 2012 Suzanne was honoured to carry the Olympic flame through Carlisle, after being nominated as a Torchbearer for her charitable work for Mind in West Cumbria. This sparked a love for running, especially in the Cumbrian fells and coastline.
Suzanne wrote an article for The Conversation in April 2019 about child poverty in England, entitled ‘Child poverty is at a 20-year high – but in one English community, children themselves are intervening’
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) 'Hard to reach’ parents but not hard to research: a critical reﬂection of gatekeeper positionality using a community-based methodology. International Journal of Research & Method in Education . ISSN 1743-727X
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Child poverty is at a 20-year high – but in one English community, children themselves are intervening. The Conversation.
Slavin, Willie and Wilson, Suzanne (2019) CHILD POVERTY: The Impact of Poor Housing on Children’s Life Chances. Project Report.
Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Connected Communities with Cumbria Constabulary: Promoting Community Capital in Vulnerable Localities. Project Report
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Cultivating Citizenship though Community Capital. In: XVI European Congress of Psychology 2019, 2-5 July 2019, Moscow, Russia.
Wilson, Suzanne and Williamson, Emma (2019) Cultivating Citizenship through Connected Communities: Challenging Intergenerational Loneliness through Youth Led Co-Production. In: Communities for Change Seminar, 26 June 2019, University of Central Lancashire, Preston.
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) "Police are people too": Revised perceptions and critical reflections of police-community identities. In: Identity, Diversity, Community Cohesion and Conflict: What Now?, 26 June 2019, University of Central Lancashire, Preston.
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Child Driven Policy using Youth Participatory Action Research. In: Tackling Child Poverty: Building a Positive Future for Britain’s Youth, Tuesday 5 March 2019.
Wilson, Suzanne (2019) Developing an Intergenerational Approach to Social Isolation through Connected Communities in West Cumbria. In: ODESSA PROJECT SYMPOSIUM: Towards Ageing-in-place: Policy and Practice Options, 1 March 2019, Royal Institute of British Architects, London.
Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Cultivating Citizenship through Community Capital. In: 5th Conference in Community Psychology in Slovakia, 3-4 December 2018, Comenius University in Bratislava, Bratislava.
Wilson, Suzanne (2018) Community Capital: The Value of Connected Communities. In: The British Psychological Society Annual Conference 2018, 2-4 May 2018, East Midlands Conference Centre
Wilson, Suzanne and Morris, David (2017) Community Capital: The Value of Connected Communities. In: British Psychological Society Community Psychology Festival 2017, 15th to 16th September 2017, Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Art, Bristol.
The vision of ‘Connected Communities’ is one in which people are embedded within local networks of social support; in which social isolation is reduced and people experience greater wellbeing and other benefits from the better understanding, mobilisation and growth of ‘community capital’ in their neighbourhoods.
The Connected Communities programme explored this vision by surveying residents in ward-sized localities, analysing this data for insight into local social networks and wellbeing, and then working with local people to build projects that support social connections. From the Big Society to the NHS Five Year Forward View, the UK Government has expressed the desire to see resilient communities that are better able to support themselves and reduce pressures on public services. The Connected Communities programme demonstrates that community-led action and targeted interventions can indeed strengthen local communities, and that substantial benefits can be derived as a result. The process of achieving these benefits, outlined in this report, is difficult and cannot be assumed to arise spontaneously. Instead we call for a strategic approach on the part of public service providers and others who have an interest in developing resilient communities. Furthermore, the effects of social networks and the results of intervening to strengthen them are locally specific, unpredictable and non-linear. Overly idealistic or one-size-fits-all approaches will achieve little; but deliberative, intelligent and participatory engagement with communities can generate significant advantages for all involved. Context is key, and bespoke local engagement is required to successfully facilitate the growth of community capital.
The aims of this project was to research, develop and deliver a family based intervention to raise aspirations and attainment. The intervention that was produced, ‘In This Together’, is currently funded by Cumbria County Council to be rolled out throughout West Cumbrian secondary schools, for two years.
The initial research consisted of a mixed methods design and sought to identify factors that impact on ‘disadvantaged ’ families’ aspirations. Local school data provided evidence of discrepancies in educational engagement, and focus groups and interviews provided insights into parents and teachers’ experiences. It was found that there was a tangible difference in parental engagement in ‘disadvantaged’ families and that this widened at secondary school. Focus groups and interviews showed that parents felt unable to support their children with their secondary school work and allocated responsibility with education exclusively to school. Parents felt judged by teachers and showed negative attitudes towards secondary school staff.
In response to these results, a brief solution focused approach was adopted to challenge the negative beliefs and attitudes held towards secondary school education, promoting a positive pro-active ethos. Through four one-to-one sessions and two follow up meetings, ‘In This Together’ cultivates parental agency and responsibility towards secondary education. A strong mentoring relationship between the facilitator and parents, along with practising practical strategies at home promotes confidence and perceived autonomy over their influence over their children.
‘In This Together’ has been piloted with 25 families, with pupil improvement in 5 out of 9 pupil progress measures, demonstrating a larger rate of progress than families who were not involved in the intervention. All family members who completed ‘In This Together’ recommended the programme to other parents, and follow-up interviews demonstrated examples of pro-educational attitudes, beliefs and behaviour. The implementation and sustainability of ‘In This Together’ was secured through liaison with Inspira directors, the development of a clear governance model and a comprehensive training package. It is concluded that ‘In This Together’ provides an original, innovate approach to work with families to close the attainment gap, increasing opportunities for pupils from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds to succeed and achieve academically.