Dr Laura Kelly

Dr Laura Kelly

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Lecturer in Criminal Justice
School of Social Policy Student Experience Lead

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Laura joined the University of Birmingham in October 2017. She previously worked at Durham University and Liverpool John Moores University. Laura’s research interests centre on work with children and young people, particularly in relation to youth crime and justice. She is a member of the Youth Justice Board’s Academic Advisory Panel and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is the Student Experience Lead for the School of Social Policy.


  • PhD in Sociology, University of Liverpool
  • MA in Research Methodology (Sociology and Social Policy), University of Liverpool
  • MA in Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • BA (Joint Hons) English and Philosophy, University of Liverpool


  • Crime and the City
  • Crime and Society
  • Criminological Theory II
  • Youth, Crime and Justice


Much of Laura’s research has explored how welfare and criminal justice priorities intersect in areas of policy and practice such as crime prevention, early intervention and targeted youth support. Another key theme has been understanding how professionals work with children, young people and families, and how those involved with services experience that work, particularly in contexts where the policies directing practice often rapidly change.

Her doctoral research – which she began while working for a Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership – analysed sports-based interventions intended to reduce crime and promote social inclusion. This work was funded by an ESRC +3 studentship.

From 2012-15, she was co-investigator on an ESRC funded project entitled ‘Implementing Policy Change in Youth Justice’ (ES/J009857/1 and ES/J009857/2), with PI Professor Jo Phoenix and Dr Vici Armitage. This work considered how youth justice practitioners learn to make professional judgements in an environment of changing policy.

From 2016-17, Laura worked with the Royal Court Liverpool Trust, and with Dr Victoria Foster and Anne Hayes, to explore how theatre can support young people’s personal and social education and contribute to community safety objectives. This project was funded by Liverpool John Moores University and the Rayne Foundation.

Most recently, Laura worked on the Child Protection and Social Distancing project, led by Professor Harry Ferguson, with Professor Sarah Pink. This qualitative longitudinal research project was funded by the ESRC, as part of the UK Research and Innovation call for studies that could help understand and alleviate the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research explored the impact of the pandemic on child protection practice and vulnerable children and families in four anonymous local authorities in England. Project reports and links to all outputs are available on the project website.

Other activities

Laura is a member of the British Society of Criminology, the Social Policy Association, the National Association for Youth Justice, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, and the Howard League for Penal Reform. 


Ferguson, H., Kelly, L. and Pink, S. (2021) Social work and child protection for a post-pandemic world: the re-making of practice during COVID-19 and its renewal beyond it. Journal of Social Work Practice. Advance Online Publication. 

Pink, S., Ferguson, H. and Kelly, L. (2021) Digital social work: Conceptualising a hybrid anticipatory practice. Qualitative Social Work. Advance Online Publication. 

Pink, S., Ferguson, H. and Kelly, L. (2020) Child protection social work in COVID-19: Reflections on home visits and digital intimacy. Anthropology in Action, 23(3): 27-30. 

Kelly, L. and Munro, E. (2018), Youth services try to mould young people – how about they help young people mould society instead? The Conversation. Available online.

Kelly, L. (2018), SDP and youth in the global North, in Collison, H., Darnell, S.C., Giulianotti, R. and Howe, P.D. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Sport for Development and Peace. Routledge.

Armitage, V., Kelly, L. and Phoenix, J. (2016), Janus-faced youth justice work and the transformation of accountability, The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 55(4): 478-495, doi: 10.1111/hojo.12181.

Kelly, L. and Armitage V. (2015), Diverse diversions: youth justice reform, localized practices, and a ‘new interventionist diversion’?, Youth Justice, 15(2): 117-133, doi: 10.1177/1473225414558331.

Kelly, L., Foster, V. and Hayes, A. (2015), Evaluating drama-based crime prevention: problems, politics, and new directions. In Joseph, J. and Crichlow, W. (eds.) Alternative Offender Rehabilitation and Social Justice: Arts and Physical Engagement in Criminal Justice and Community Settings. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.144-164.

Phoenix, J. and Kelly, L. (2013), ‘You have to do it for yourself’: responsibilization in youth justice and young people’s situated knowledge of youth justice practice, British Journal of Criminology, 53(3): 419-437, doi: 10.1093/bjc/azs078.

Kelly, L. (2013), Sports-based interventions and the local governance of youth crime and anti-social behavior, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 37(3): 261-283, doi: 10.1177/0193723512467193.

Kelly, L. (2012), Representing and preventing youth crime and disorder: intended and unintended consequences of targeted youth programmes in England, Youth Justice, 12(2), pp.101-117, doi: 10.1177/1473225412447160.

Kelly, L. (2011), ‘Social inclusion’ through sports-based interventions?, Critical Social Policy, 31(1), pp.126-150, doi: 10.1177/0261018310385442.

View all publications in research portal