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David Westlake

Senior Research Fellow, CASCADE

+44 (0)29 2087 0246
1-3 Museum Place


I research child and family social work, and my career to date has included a wide range of topics within and around this field. The common thread to my recent work is that it has all involved evaluating complex interventions, one way or another. I tend to use a wide range of methods because the combination tells us more than any single approach would do if used in isolation. I’m drawn to this area of research because I like to think about how things happen in the real world. I like building on what we already know and the cycle of research means that the picture you end up with changes and gets clearer over time. I also appreciate the fast paced nature of doing these studies and their close links with policy change. I stay within the university sector because alongside this there is the space to think and develop ideas, and in turn this contributes to doing better studies.

I’m currently leading an evaluation of a £10 million policy initiative which puts social workers in schools, working with Cardiff’s Centre for Trials Research and Oxford University. The study is a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) with process and economic evaluations, and it follows a feasibility study that I completed earlier this year on the same topic. Before moving to Cardiff I led a research team that worked within a child protection service, with a remit to provide evaluative feedback on practice and inform service improvement. I’m currently thinking and writing about the complexities of policy implementation at the individual level, with an aim to better understand the role individual practitioners play in how policy initiatives are delivered.



Cambridge University; Mphil Criminology

Lancaster University; BA Criminology


2018 – present Research Fellow, Cardiff University

2015 – 2018       Senior Research Fellow, University of Bedfordshire

2011 – 2015       Research Fellow, University of Bedfordshire

2007 – 2010       Research Associate; Loughborough University

2006 - 2007        Research Assistant; Bristol University

Voluntary work

2019 – present Independent visitor

Committees and reviewing

2017 – present   Associate Editor Journal of Children’s Services

2018 – present   CoramBAAF Research Advisory Board

2018 – 2019       Academic advisor, Bristol University Compassion Fatigue Study

2015 – 2018       University Ethics committee member










I have significant teaching experience at undergraduate and postgraduate level but I am currently focussed on research.

My research has covered the following topics:

  • Social work communication skills
  • School based social work
  • Organisational culture
  • Devolved budgets
  • Advocacy for trafficked children
  • Pathways for very young children at risk of harm
  • Research ethics

Current projects

  • The SWIS Trial

Recently completed projects

  • Social workers in schools pilots
  • Devolved budgets pilots


Past projects