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 Kim Dearing

Kim Dearing

Research student, School of Social Sciences


I am a PhD candidate exploring the relationship and impact of (un)paid work for people diagnosed with a learning disability who are in receipt of social care by using ethnographic research methods. I am also involved in a research project in the Business School, exploring the processes of co-production with a local Borough Council. 

My background is working in the third sector, supporting adults with learning disabilities, in both registered care homes and independent living. This included developing and managing a work programme and managing service provision within the community.


Research interests

Broadly, I am interested in:

  • Social care policy and its impact upon people (individuals, groups and communities)

  • Employment activation initiatives and evaluations

  • Exploring ideas around a Universal Basic Income 

  • Concepts attached to ideas around citizenship

  • Social belonging, in(ex)clusion and ‘re-inclusion’ as an excludable type

  • Ethnographic research methods

  • Co-produced, emancipatory and participatory research methods

  • Critical disability studies, embodiment, and medical sociology


Post Graduate Tutor: 

2019/20: Sociology of Stigma (year 3)

2019/20: Introduction to Social Science Research Methods (year 1)

2018/19: Developing Scholarship in the Social Sciences (year 1) 

I am also an Associate Lecturer for the Open University on the DD102 Module - Introducing the Social Sciences 


The (Un)Intended Consequences of Employment Policy Exclusion for Learning-Disabled People: Experiences from a Job Club

People with a learning disability, who are in receipt of social care, often have a precarious relationship with paid work and the open labour market – less than 6% of working-aged people within this demographic are in any form of employment. In a society that privileges those who can perform the function and duties associated with being a responsible and contributing citizen, employment can recast those defined as reckless or worthless, into instead, a societal role that holds value and meaning. ‘Welfare-to-work’ policies for learning-disabled people follow a similar trajectory to the mainstream policy that locates the barriers to employment with the individual. Specialist work programmes incentivise employment providers to move participants into long-term employment, yet, people who are in receipt of social care and therefore have a learning disability that is more than a mild/borderline diagnosis, are frequently denied access to such programmes. Similarly, academic literature frames successful employment support models as those aimed at supporting those with a learning disability that are closest to the labour market. Consequently, people who are excluded from such employment programmes, can be signposted to third sector organisations, based in communities, to enable people with higher support needs to find employment. Yet, while people here may aspire to seek paid work, they are commonly far from ‘job readiness’.

Based on ethnographic research in a one such third sector organisation, and at three further sites of complementary data collection, I explore the impact of paid work, together with the complex, persistent and prevalent barriers to employment inclusion. In doing so, this research unpacks the nuanced and multifaceted reality of everyday life for learning disabled people struggling to access paid work. In response to structural job discrimination, unconventional experiences of work that falls short of national minimum wage legislation is commonplace. Yet, more subtly, ethical and moral considerations of value and worth are brought to the fore of the discussion. As such, much of this thesis considers the grey, blurred lines between paid work, unpaid work, work experience, extended work ‘trials’, and therapeutic work where small token payments are made to replicate ‘paid’ work. While these ‘work like’ substitutes are presented as suitable alternatives, they hold tension with the broader labour market structures of how work and employment is organised.

Funding source