'Research Shows a Small Number of Families Face Long-Term Problems.' Health Wales Is Highlighting the Cream of Young Research Talent in a Series of Articles about and by the Welsh Crucible Researchers. Dr Sally Holland Explains How Her Research Has Been Influenced by Her Previous Job as a Social Worker

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 15, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Research Shows a Small Number of Families Face Long-Term Problems.' Health Wales Is Highlighting the Cream of Young Research Talent in a Series of Articles about and by the Welsh Crucible Researchers. Dr Sally Holland Explains How Her Research Has Been Influenced by Her Previous Job as a Social Worker


Byline: Dr Sally Holland

BEFORE becoming an academic, I worked as a social worker in South Wales, and many of my research interests are driven by these experiences.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be to work out exactly what is going on in a family situation behind closed doors and what is the best way forward for a child at risk.

My current research focuses on substance misuse and its effect on parenting.

Use of drugs and alcohol is widespread in Wales. The majority of parents will drink alcohol to relax or socialise on a regular basis; a smaller proportion will use illicit drugs, notably cannabis.

The vast majority manage to do this and maintain good enough care for their children. It can become problematic when parents start to neglect children's basic needs because they are under the influence or trying to get hold of drugs or alcohol.

They might not have enough money for food or to pay bills; they may be unresponsive to a baby's crying or even become involved in crime or prostitution to raise funds.

Social workers and health workers need to assess the risk for children living in the household and decide whether the parents can be helped to provide adequate care for their children or if it is necessary to provide alternative care.

A particular problem faced by health and social care professionals is the understandable reticence of parents to be frank and honest about the extent of their problems, because of the fear of losing their children.

I have worked with colleagues in Birmingham and Bedfordshire on a follow-up study of families with a substance misuse problem. This research, funded by the Alcohol Education Research Council, looked at the impact of a specialist intensive intervention service provided by Cardiff council for families in these difficult circumstances, comparing them with families who did not receive this type of help. The impact of intensive help was evident - although both groups of families had mixed outcomes, the passage of time meant that in 27 cases the families were willing to talk more honestly about their difficulties. …

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'Research Shows a Small Number of Families Face Long-Term Problems.' Health Wales Is Highlighting the Cream of Young Research Talent in a Series of Articles about and by the Welsh Crucible Researchers. Dr Sally Holland Explains How Her Research Has Been Influenced by Her Previous Job as a Social Worker
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