Dr Denise Tanner

Dr Denise Tanner

Department of Social Work and Social Care
Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Contact details

Department of Social Work and Social Care
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Denise Tanner is a Senior Lecturer on BA and MA Social Work courses.  Her areas of teaching and research interest include adult social work/social care policy and practice; social work with older people; social work skills; social perspectives of mental distress; and service user involvement in education and research. She has lead responsibility for Postgraduate Research students in the Department of Social Work and Social Care. 


  • PhD Social Work (University of Warwick, 2005)
  • Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Coventry University, 1998)
  • Certificate in Supervisory Management (Distinction) (Coventry University, 1995) 
  • M.Soc.Sc. Mental Disorder Studies (University of Birmingham, 1985)
  • BSc. Sociology (1st class) with Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (University of Bath, 1982)


Denise began her social work career in the voluntary sector, working for Family Service Unit (FSU) in Sheffield. After completing a Masters in Mental Disorder Studies, she then worked for 11 years in the statutory sector, first as a generic community team social worker, and subsequently as a social worker and senior social worker in an Adult Team. During this time, she worked as both an Approved Social Worker (ASW) and a practice teacher. In 1996, she moved into an academic post as Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Coventry University, where she worked part-time until 2002. Between 2002-2004 while completing her PhD, she undertook freelance work, which included development work on service user involvement in social work education, teaching and tutoring on social work courses and training for local Social Services Departments. Between 2004-2008, she held a fixed term appointment as Associate Professor at University of Warwick, where her responsibilities included developing and supporting service user involvement on the social work programme and the development and support of practice learning. She joined Institute of Applied Social Studies in September 2008.


  • Adult social work/social care policy and practice
  • Social work with older people
  • Relationship-based practice
  • Social work skills
  • Qualitative social research
  • Service user involvement in research

Postgraduate supervision

Denise is interested in supervising postgraduate students undertaking study in the following areas:  social work with adults, especially older people; dementia and citizenship; social approaches to mental wellbeing; service user and carer involvement; participatory research/co-production; social work skills. She is particularly interested in research that uses participatory methods to explore service user experiences and perspectives.

Her current doctoral supervision addresses the following topics:

  • Teaching communication skills to social work students: A mixed methods evaluation
  • Approved Mental Health Professionals and  Alternatives to Admissions under the Mental Health Act


The main focus of her recent research and writing is the promotion of the wellbeing of older people. Her PhD research involved in-depth research with older people exploring their experiences of managing unmet need over a three year period. She has been involved in the evaluation of voluntary sector projects concerned with promoting the independence and wellbeing of older people. Her recent research includes: an exploration of the experiences of older people with dementia of moving into and between services; an analysis of the involvement of older people and people with learning disabilities as service user researchers; and an evaluation of a project for older people who use alcohol.

She is currently involved in a project funded by Wellcome Trust, ‘Ethical issues in self-funded care: co-producing knowledge with older people’, with Dr. Lizzie Ward, University of Brighton and Professor Mo Ray, University of Lincoln. She is also working on a Department of Health funded study, ‘Implementing the Care Act 2014: Preventing, reducing or delaying needs for care and support in adult social care in England’ with Professor Jerry Tew and other colleagues at University of Birmingham.   

Other activities

Denise is a member of British Society of Gerontology. She is also Trustee of a local care home. 


Allen, K., Needham, C., Hall, K. and Tanner, D. (Feb 2019; in preparation) Participatory research meets validated outcome measures: Tensions in the co-production of social care evaluation. Social Policy and Administration, 2019, 2nd Volume (forthcoming).

Tanner, D. (2018) ‘Opening communicative space: what do co-researchers contribute?’, Qualitative Research, Advance Access April 17, 2018  doi.org/10.1177/1468794118770076

Tanner, D, Ward, L. and Ray, M. (2017) ‘Paying our own way’: Application of the capability approach to explore older people’s experiences of self-funding social care. Critical Social Policy. 17 August, 2017. Online First. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261018317724344  

Tanner, D, Littlechild, R., Duffy, J. and Hayes, D.  (2017) ‘Making It Real’: Evaluating the Impact of Service User and Carer Involvement in Social Work Education’, British Journal of Social Work , 47(2): 467-468. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcv121.

Tanner, D. (2016) Sustaining the self in the 'fourth age': a case study, Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, 17(3):  157-167. Doi:10.1108/QAOA-05-2015-0024.

Tanner, D. and Littlechild R. (2016) ‘Enhancing older people’s wellbeing through research’ in C. Chew-Graham and M. Ray (eds) Mental Health and Older People – a handbook for primary care practitioners,New York: Springer.

Littlechild, R, Tanner, D. and Hall, K (2015) Co-research with older people: perspectives on impact, Qualitative Social Work, vol. 14 (1): 18-35, doi: 10.1177/1473325014556791.

Lloyd, L, Tanner, D, Ray, M, Richards, S, Milne, A, Phillips, J, Beech, C and Sullivan, MP (2014) ‘Look after yourself: active ageing, individual responsibility and the decline of social work with older people in the UK’, European Journal of Social Work (17) 3, 322-335, doi: 10.1080/13691457.2013.829805.

Milne, A, Sullivan, MP, Tanner, D, Richards, S, Ray, M, Lloyd, L, Beech, C and Phillips, J (2014) Social work with older people: a vision for the future, London: The College of Social Work.

Ray, M, Milne, A, Beech, C, Richards, S, Sullivan, MP, Tanner, D, Lloyd, L and Phillips, J  (2014) ‘Gerontological Social Work: Reflections on its Role, Purpose and Value’, British Journal of Social Work Advance Access published January 16, 2014, doi:10.1093/bjsw/bct195.

Tanner, D, Glasby, J. and McIver, S (2014) Understanding and Improving Older People’s Experiences of Service Transitions: Implications for Social Work,  British Journal of Social Work Advance Access 15 September 2014, 1–16 doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcu095.

Richards, S, Sullivan, MP, Tanner, D, et al (2013) 'On the edge of a new frontier: is gerontological social work in the UK ready to meet 21st century challenges?', British Journal of Social Work, online version 10 May 2013.

Ellins J, Glasby J, Tanner D, McIver S, Davidson D, Littlechild R, Snelling I, Miller R, Hall K, Spence K and the Care Transitions Project co-researchers. (2012) Understanding and improving transitions of older people: a user and carer centred approach. Final report. NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation programme.

Tanner, D (2012) Co-research with older people with dementia: experience and reflections, Journal of Mental Health, 21(3): 296-306.

Tanner, D. (2011) Identity, Selfhood and Dementia: Messages for social work, European Journal of Social Work, online version 9 November 2011, 1-16.

Tanner, D. (2010) Managing the Ageing Experience: Learning from Older People, Bristol: Policy Press.

Tanner, D (2009) 'Modernisation and the delivery of user-centred services', Chapter 6 in J Harris and V White (eds) Modernising Social Work, Bristol: Policy Press.

McLeod, E, Bywaters, P, Tanner, D and Hirsch, M (2008) 'For the Sake of Their Health: Older Service Users' Requirements for Social Care to Facilitate Access to Social Networks Following Hospital Discharge', British Journal of Social Work, 38: 73-90.

Tanner, D and Harris, J (2008) Working with Older People, London: Routledge.

Coghlan, A, Letherby, G, Tanner, D, Wilson, C and Bywaters, P (2007) 'Managing the Process', Chapter 6 in G Letherby and P Bywaters (eds) Extending Social Research: Application, Implementation and Publications, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tanner, D (2007) 'Starting with lives: supporting older peoples' strategies and ways of coping', Journal of Social Work, 7(1): 7-30.

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