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Dr Tom Disney

Assistant Professor

Department: Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing

I am a Social Geographer and my research interests centre on families and children experiencing interventions of the state, with a conceptual focus on care and control across a variety of institutions. I explore how these interventions break or facilitate cycles of marginalisation of children, young people and families. My work lies at the intersection of Geography and Childhood Studies.

Tom Disney

Campus Address

Coach Lane Campus



I am a Social Geographer and my research interests centre on families and children experiencing interventions of the state, with a conceptual focus on care and control across a variety of institutions. I explore how these interventions break or facilitate cycles of marginalisation of children, young people and families. My work lies at the intersection of Geography and Childhood Studies.

My previous research has focussed on residential care settings in Russia and I have also conducted research into family visits to prison in the UK. I have recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship on a major ESRC-funded longitudinal, ethnographic study of child protection work in the UK. This interdisciplinary research explored how social workers establish and sustain relationships with families in order to keep children safe.

More recently, I have completed a project titled ‘Young People Leaving Care in the Russian Federation’, funded through a British Academy Small Grant. The project critically explores the forms of transition and aftercare services available to care leavers in Russia. In the UK, I am currently conducting participatory research into the needs  of families accessing early help and social care services, in collaboration with local government. I am interested in developing collaborative research proposals to further develop cross-disciplinary dialogues between Social Work and Geography.

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Relationship-based practice and the creation of therapeutic change in long-term work: Social work as a holding relationship, Ferguson, H., Warwick, L., Disney, T., Leigh, J., Cooner, T., Beddoe, L. 17 Feb 2022, In: Social Work Education
  • Supervision in child protection: A space and place for reflection or an excruciating marathon of compliance?, Beddoe, L., Ferguson, H., Warwick, L., Disney, T., Leigh, J., Cooner, T. 4 May 2022, In: European Journal of Social Work
  • The power of relationship-based supervision in supporting social work retention: A case study from long-term ethnographic research in child protection , Warwick, L., Beddoe, L., Leigh, J., Disney, T., Ferguson, H., Cooner, T. 7 Sep 2022, In: Qualitative Social Work
  • Hostile relationships in social work practice: Anxiety, hate and conflict in long-term work with involuntary service users, Ferguson, H., Disney, T., Warwick, L., Leigh, J., Cooner, T., Beddoe, L. 2 Jan 2021, In: Journal of Social Work Practice
  • Reclaiming failure in geography: Academic honesty in a neoliberal world, Davies, T., Disney, T., Harrowell, E. Feb 2021, In: Emotion, Space and Society
  • Revealing the hidden performances of social work practice: The ethnographic process of gaining access, getting into place and impression management., Leigh, J., Disney, T., Warwick, L., Ferguson, H., Beddoe, L., Cooner, T. 1 Jul 2021, In: Qualitative Social Work
  • From snapshots of practice to a movie: Researching long-term social work and child protection by getting as close as possible to practice and organisational life, Ferguson, H., Leigh, J., Cooner, T., Beddoe, L., Disney, T., Warwick, L., Plumridge, G. 1 Sep 2020, In: The British Journal of Social Work
  • Orphans, Disney, T. 2020, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood Studies, SAGE

Fiona Ranson Finding home: identifying ‘best interests’ provision for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children. Start Date: 18/01/2021

  • PhD
  • PGCert
  • MA
  • MA (Hons)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy FHEA
  • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society FRGS


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