Dr Harriet Clarke

Dr Harriet Clarke

Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Social Research

Contact details

School of Social Policy
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Harriet Clarke has teaching and research commitments to disability and social policy, and supervises doctoral research within the department. Harriet is also Head of Education for the School of Social Policy, responsible for the development and implementation of education strategy with oversight of the School’s teaching programmes. She is a member of the School Senior Management Team, represents the School on the College Education Committee and on the College Programme Approvals Committee.  

Feedback and office hours

Tuesday 9.30-11

Thursday 3.00-4.30


  • BA University of Sheffield 1992        
  • PhD University of Leicester 2004


Harriet joined the University of Birmingham in September 2001 from the University of Leicester where she was a researcher in adult social care.  Whilst at Leicester she completed her PhD part-time (on attitudes to long-term care funding) and conducted funded research on social care in later life and on the experiences of disabled parents (including parents with mental distress). At the University of Birmingham she has continued to work on research relevant to family life and disability. She has also contributed to social work, social policy and social research education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and supervises doctoral research work.


UG Social Policy Programmes 

  • UG Social Policy, year 1 - Social Problems and Social Policy (20 credits)
  • Dissertation Supervision
  • UG Tutoring 

MA Social Research / Doctoral Training

  • Researching Disability (10 credits) (with Graeme Douglas, Education)

Postgraduate supervision

Current supervision:

  • Chloe Alexander – An Ethnography of Young Carers’ Family Life  Lead supervisor, with Nicki Ward and Kayleigh Garthwaite.
  • Bingzi He – Collaborative Housing in England and China  Lead supervisor, with Professor David Mullins.
  • Simone Helleren – Engagement with Help of Young People Experiencing Homelessness  Lead supervisor, with Professor David Mullins and Jennifer Cumming.
  • Emma Orme – Equalities Legislation and Disabled People in White Collar Work, Lead supervisor, with Ross Abbinett.

Doctoral completions:      

  • Feylyn Lewis (2018) Young Adult Carers in the UK and the USA.
  • Julia Smith (2010)  Women with Physical Impairments and Mental Distress
  • Joy Fillingham (2013)  Changing needs and Challenging Perceptions of Disabled People with Acquired Impairments
  • Colin Watt (2014)  Foster Care for Young People who have Sexually Abused
  • Monica Pinilla (2015) The Realities of Disability and Poverty in Latin America
  • Raquel Silva (2016) Narratives of Political Violence in Portugal 

Doctoral research

PhD title
Attitudes and Behaviour Towards Financial Planning for Care in ‘Old Age’ 


Whole Family Approaches in Policy and Practice

Harriet is particularly interested in the ways in which policy makers in Adults' services and Children's services seek to develop strategies and approaches which attempt to bridge 'the gap' which individuals and families can experience when seeking support.

Individual and Family Experiences of Disability

Much of Harriet's research is focused on lived experiences of disability and impairment (including mental distress) and on individual and family experiences of social care and health services. 

Research Funding Awards

British Academy:  ‘Autonomy, interdependence, and social security: an integrated study of disability benefit entitlement and family life’ (with F. Carmichael, PI) 2015-17.

Thomas Pocklington Trust, RNIB and Sense:  ‘Experiences of Personal Independence Payments for People with Sensory Loss’ (with G. Douglas, PI) 2014-5.  

NIHR School for Social Care Research: ‘Can family focused approaches contribute to the reablement of people with mental health problems’ (with J. Tew PI) 2011-2012.    

Can Family Focused Approaches Contribute to the Reablement of People with Mental Health Problems? (NIHR School of Social Care Research, June 2011-September 2012) working with Jerry Tew (PI), IASS

Connected Health and Social Care Communities (Arts and Humanities Research Council, March-August 2011) working with Mervyn Conroy (PI), University of Cumbria and Lynne Wilson, INLOGOV, University of Birmingham

Supporting disabled parents and parents with additional needs: a family or fragmented approach (Commission for Social Care Inspection Special Study 2008) Lead consultant and external project manager, working with Nathan Hughes and Rosemary Littlechild, Department of Social Policy and Social Work.

Disability and Family Formation (Department for Work and Pensions / Office of Disability Issues, 2008) with Professor Stephen McKay, IASS

Disabled Parents, The Way Forward (ESRC Funded Seminar Series, 2006-2008)

Recent Research and Consultation

EU FP7 Framework: Understanding and Supporting Families with Complex Needs - International Research Exchange Programme, Marie Curie Actions, 2009-2013.

Community Care Inform: Disabled Parents and their Families, commissioned to develop web-based practitioner resource on research, practice guidance and legislation on disability and parenting, 2009.

Children in Need: Fun and Friendship for Disabled Children and Young People, research consultant and contributor, topic specialist on disability, 2008.

Cabinet Office: Whole Family Approaches Literature Review, expert contributor on family experiences of disability, 2007.

SPRU University of York: Review on Interventions to Support Parents who have Mental Health Problems (funded by SCIE), expert advisor on mental health and parenting in family context, 200


Journal articles

Clarke, H.& McKay, S. (2014), ‘Disability, partnership and parenting’, Disability & Society, 29 (4): 543-555. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2013.831745

Clarke, H. & O’Dell, L. (2013) ‘Disabled parents & normative families: the obscuring of lived experiences of parents & children within policy & research’ in J. Ribbens McCarthy, C. Hooper, & V. Gillies (eds) Family Troubles, Bristol: Policy Press.

Clarke, H. and Hughes, N. (2010), ‘Introduction: Family minded policy and whole family practice – Developing a critical research framework’, Social Policy & Society, 9 (4), 527-531. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1474746410000242

Clarke, H. (2010) Supporting parents to support family life: A central challenge for family minded policy, Social Policy & Society, 9 (4), 567-577.

Clarke, H. and Hughes, N. (2010), ‘Introduction: Family minded policy and whole family practice – Developing a critical research framework’, Social Policy & Society, 9 (4), 527-531.

Kilkey, M. and Clarke, H. (2010) 'Disabled men and fathering: opportunities and constraints', Community, Work and Family 13 (4).

McKay, S. and Clarke, H. (2009) 'Disability and family forms: messages from the UK for understanding family poverty dynamics' in Sociologia e Politiche Sociali (invited, special edition: Poverty Dynamics Revisited: from Methods to Substance).

Book chapters

Clarke, H. (2017) ‘Experiencing Disability’ in C. Squire (ed) (2017) The Social Context of Birth, Oxford: Radcliffe. 

Clarke, H. (2017) ‘Present and obscured: disabled women as mothers in social policy’, Motherhood in Literature and Culture: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Europe, ed. Gill Rye, Victoria Browne, Adalgisa Giorgio, Emily Jeremiah, and Abigail Lee Six (New York: Routledge).

Clarke, H. (March 2009) 'Experiencing Disability' in C. Squire (ed) (2009) The Social Context of Birth|, Oxford: Radcliffe.

Papers published within conference proceedings

Clarke, H., Hughes, N. and Morris, K. (2008) 'Whole family approaches: responding to and engaging with complex social lives', in C. Canali, T. Vecchiato and J.K. Whittaker (eds.) Assessing the Evidence Base of Intervention for Vulnerable Children and their Families, Fondazione Emmanuela Zancan: Padova, Italy.

Reports and other publications

Ellis, L., Douglas, G., and Clarke, H. (2015) Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA): Report Based Upon Fourteen Case Studies of People with Sensory Impairments Engaged in Application for PIP VICTAR, University of Birmingham. 

Clarke, H and McKay, S (2008) Exploring Disability and Family Formation: Reviewing the Evidence| (pdf; opens in new window), Analysing Patterns, London: DWP / ODI.

Morris, K, Hughes, N, Clarke, H, Tew, J et al (2008) Think Family: a literature review of Whole Family Approaches.  London: Cabinet Office.

View all publications in research portal