Practitioner led research; negotiating turbulent ethical waters
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This workshop will be led by four Social Work practitioners who have experience of undertaking doctoral research exploring statutory mental health practice in the UK, specifically the work of Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP). These research projects have involved AMHPs as participants, reflecting on how they view their role and how they make decisions, using a range of methods. Understanding what contributes to AMHP decisions making given the powers they hold to deprive a person of their liberty deserves the focus of research, however structural barriers need to be overcome to gather the research data. AMHP decisions directly impact on an individual’s human rights and they have the power to deprive an individual of their liberty. Social workers remain the dominant professional undertaking AMHP roles. Social Work research more broadly has the potential to present numerous ethical challenges and dilemmas both for the researcher when designing a project, and in terms of gaining approval given the so called ‘vulnerable’ groups that often come into contact with social work practitioners. Arguably this demonstrates how essential it is to produce empirical evidence in terms of social work practice as there is an ethical duty to explore the work that the profession undertakes in order to contribute to practice development and to critically reflect on the role of social work and its impact on service users. The workshop aims to promote the confidence of researchers to undertake ethically sensitive research and would be particular useful to PhD students and early career researchers. This workshop will enable researchers to gain knowledge of the ethical review process that the researchers undertook – using a variety of frameworks such as National Health Service Research Governance protocols, university sponsorship requirements and applications for ethical review. As all three researchers encountered barriers and issues such as multi-site research and involving individuals who lack the capacity to consent to be a research participant, this session will provide an opportunity to disseminate the knowledge gained during the research process and to stimulate discussion within the workshop participants highlighting other issues, concerns or barriers. The workshop will be structured to allow time for short presentation outlining the experiences of the workshop facilitators, before breaking into smaller groups encouraging delegates to consider either an example of their own research or a proposal they have in mind. Each group will feedback to the larger group to then summarise issues that have arisen within the group and to take questions and discussion points that are identified. These pedagogical methods will enable knowledge to be shared and the potential for a network to come together after the conference, maintaining a resource to share knowledge in this specific area of research practice.
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