Sarah-Jane Fenton

Doctoral researcher, School of Social Policy


School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham

Year started: 2012
F/T or P/T: F/T
Supervisor(s): Professor Jon Glasby and Dr Jerry Tew

Research topic

'Bridging the gap' - Mental health service delivery for adolescents: a comparative study between Australia and the UK


  • Bsc (Hons) Geography; MPhil (Oxon) Comparative Social Policy
  • PGCert Pyschodynamic approaches to working with adolescents

Background and professional experience

I joined the department at HSMC in January 2012 having previously worked as the Chief Operating Officer at Kids Company, a children’s charity serving vulnerable children and young people in London. I have previously worked in a range of roles including as a research assistant within the third sector, and whilst studying for my MPhil, as a library assistant at the Bodleian.

Teacher/training experience

  • Design and training - child protection for staff in the third sector.
  • 1:1 Academic mentoring of masters students of social policy.

Research overview

This study aims to explore the implications policy formulation has on service delivery and professional accountability in these two countries. This thesis aims to examine whether young people falling through the gaps in the UK, who are at a vulnerable stage developmentally in terms of mental health, are consequently negatively affected by the present policy framework. This will be compared with the experience of the same group of young people in the Australian setting. 

I intend to adopt a critical realist approach to exploring the different strata within these policies and systems. Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of this research, multiple methods will be used through policy analysis, as well as quantitative and qualitative data collection. 

The main research questions of this proposed doctoral thesis will focus on three key areas. The first of these areas aims to critically examine the current policies that structure service provision for young people with mental ill health in both Australia and the UK. The second area aims to look at how the two countries address the barriers to accessing mental health services, and in particular those that are specific to this age group. If possible this will include a comparative assessment of performance measures that are relevant to the area for the population of interest. The conclusions from this part of the thesis would help inform the policy debate and wider literature as to what structural adjustments benefit young people in terms of accessing and receiving mental health care. The third and final part of the thesis aims to understand the wider implications inadequate treatment has on the individuals and society, in terms of the future outcomes of the young people who have fallen through the gaps, but also in terms of the overall economic costs to the health system (and other systems) and the economy.