Siân Thomas

Siân Thomas, Teaching Fellow

Department of Social Work and Social Care

Contact details

Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Siân is a lecturer in social work, and conducts research in the areas of migration, sexual and gender-based violence, and child welfare and protection. She is deputy director of the Step Up to Social Work programme and a member of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), a University of Birmingham research centre focused on the study of migration and diversity.

Feedback and office hours

To arrange an appointment, please contact


  • PGDip Post-Qualifying Social Work with Children and Young People, their Families and Carers (Distinction), University of Birmingham
  • PGCert Academic Practice (Distinction), University of Birmingham
  • PGDip Social Research (Distinction), University of Birmingham
  • MA Social Work (Distinction), University of Birmingham
  • MA Understanding and Securing Human Rights (Merit), Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London
  • BA (Joint Honours) French and Russian (2:1), University College London


Siân is a practitioner and social researcher with a background in human rights and social work, and research interests in migration, child welfare and protection, transformative justice and gender-based violence.

Siân is a qualified social worker and has experience working with adults in the voluntary sector and with children, young people and families in the statutory sector. In her research and practice, she has worked with a range of groups including refugees, undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking and gender-based violence, and survivors of torture and other human rights violations.

Siân currently teaches on the qualifying social work programmes at the University of Birmingham with a particular focus on children and families, practice skills, gender-based violence and research methods


Siân is deputy programme director of Step Up to Social Work, and coordinates two modules on the programme:

  • Advanced Practice
  • Dissertation 

She contributes to the following modules on other programmes:

  • International Child Protection (MSc Advanced Child Protection Studies)
  • Social Work Contexts (BA Social Work)
  • New Migration and Superdiversity (BA Social Policy)
  • Sociology and Social Policy (MPH Public Health)

Postgraduate supervision

Siân has supervised postgraduate dissertations for the MA Social Work, MA Post-Qualifying Social Work, and MRes Gender and Sexuality programmes in the following topic areas:

  • Migration, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)
  • Sexual and gender-based violence, including child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse
  • Child welfare and protection, including looked after children, fostering and adoption, and child protection systems
  • Sex work, including legal frameworks

Doctoral research

PhD title
Transforming Justice: Responding to sexual and gender-based violence in the refugee journey (ongoing)


Siân’s research interests are focused in the following areas:

  • Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including access to justice, international justice mechanisms and transformative justice approaches
  • Migration and displacement, including child migration, irregular migration, and impacts of borders and citizenship
  • International child welfare and protection, including trafficking and exploitation, unaccompanied children, comparative protection approaches, and impact of conflict, terrorism and displacement on children and families
  • Sex work, including rights-based approaches and constructions of agency 

Research network membership

  • Children and Childhood Network
  • Risk, Abuse and Violence research programme 

Current projects 

Asylum Early Action (Principal Investigator)

Research evaluation commissioned by Refugee Action of an early intervention approach adopted in partnership with seven refugee support organisations across England aimed at capacity-building and embedding early action approaches in the asylum sector. 

ENGAGE Project (Principal Investigator: Professor Caroline Bradbury-Jones)

Collaborative research projects aiming to develop best practice guidelines for researchers working with creative and participatory research methods in the field of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Global South.

Women’s Health Matters (Evaluator)

Evaluation of the Wellbeing Case Worker project, which provides support to refugee women in Leeds with their social and emotional wellbeing. 

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Refugee Crisis (SEREDA) (Doctoral Researcher; Principal Investigator: Professor Jenny Phillimore)

Collaborative project with partner universities in Australia, Turkey and Sweden which aims to understand the nature and incidence of SGBV experienced by refugees who have fled the Levant region; doctoral research project focuses on access to justice for survivors of SGBV in this context 

Selected previous projects 

Emotional Health and Wellbeing of Undocumented Children in London (Principal Investigator)

Research project commissioned by Barnardo’s looking at the prevalence, demographics and emotional health and wellbeing needs of undocumented children in London to inform service development. 

London’s Children and Young People who are not British Citizens (Co-Investigator)

Research project commissioned by Greater London Authority to explore the numbers and status of children and young people in London who are not British citizens.

Other activities

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Registered social worker
  • Board member, West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network
  • Member of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Immigration, Asylum and Trafficking Special Interest Group
  • Peer reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work, Qualitative Social Work, and Ethics and Social Welfare


Recent publications


Weber, S, Hardiman, M, Kanja, W, Thomas, S, Robinson-Edwards, N & Bradbury-Jones, C 2021, 'Towards ethical international research partnerships in gender-based violence research: insights from research partners in Kenya', Violence against Women.

Thomas, S, Weber, S & Bradbury-Jones, C 2020, 'Using participatory and creative methods to research gender-based violence in the Global South and with indigenous communities: findings from a scoping review', Trauma, Violence and Abuse.


Weber, S & Thomas, S 2021, Engaging in gender based violence research: adopting a feminist and participatory perspective. in C Bradbury-Jones & L Isham (eds), Understanding Gender-Based Violence : An Essential Textbook for Nurses, Healthcare Professionals and Social Workers. 1 edn, Springer, pp. 257-269.

Commissioned report

Pertek, S, Phillimore, J, Goodson, L, Stevens, A, Thomas, S, Hassan, P, Darkal, H, Taal, S & Altaweel, R 2021, Forced migration and sexual and gender-based violence: findings from the SEREDA project in the UK. University of Birmingham. <>

Jolly, A, Thomas, S & Stanyer, J 2020, London's children and young people who are not British citizens. <>

Jolly, A, Thomas, S & Stanyer, J 2020, London’s children and young people who are not British citizens: A profile. Greater London Authority. <>

Thomas, S, Jolly, A & Goodson, L 2020, “It was like they cut off all my dreams”: Emotional health and wellbeing of undocumented children in London.

Goodson, L, Thomas, S, Phillimore, J & Pemberton, S 2017, Mass migration and real estate in European cities. Urban Land Institute , London .

Review article

Hoare, JP, Thomas, S & Jolly, A 2024, 'Early action in the asylum support sector: a scoping review', Journal of Poverty and Social Justice.

Working paper

Thomas, S, Darkal, H & Goodson, L 2020 'Forced migration and SGBV: Service provider perspectives from the UK'. <>

Thomas, S, Darkal, H & Goodson, L 2019 'Monitoring and reporting incidents of sexual and gender-based violence across the refugee journey'. <>

View all publications in research portal