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Professor Donald Forrester

Professor Donald Forrester

Director of CASCADE

+44 (0)29 2068 8724
sbarc|spark, Maindy Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4HQ
Available for postgraduate supervision


My main interest is in what makes for effective child and family social work. In particular I am interested in the relationship between good practice and outcomes, and in understanding the features of organisations that produce good practice. I have led projects and programmes worth over £20 million, including setting up the Tilda Goldberg Centre, academic lead for the Frontline social work programme, founding the What Works Centre for Children's Social Care and leading CASCADE Centre for Children's Social Care Research and Development.


My first degree was in Psychology, however I spent much of my time doing voluntary work with children and young people. A feeling that psychology was too individualistic led me to follow a career in social work, and I qualified in 1992. I worked in Southwark in frontline child protection until 1999, when unanswered questions about how to do the work led me into research. Stints at Sussex, Goldsmiths and Brunel culminated in me becoming a Professor at Bedfordshire. In 2016 I came to Cardiff to head up the new CASCADE Centre for Children's Social Care Research and Development - a job I absolutely love!

Professional memberships

Registered social worker (Health Care Professionals Council)

Academic positions

1999 – 2002     Research Fellow, University of Sussex

2002 - 2005       Lecturer in Social Work, Goldsmiths College

2005 - 2007       Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Brunel University

2007- 2009        Reader in Child Welfare, University of Bedfordshire

2009- 2015        Professor of Social Work Research, University of Bedfordshire





















I teach on the Masters in Social Work and the Professional Doctorate - with a focus on evidence based practice, practice skills and assessment in social work.

I am interesed in what good practice in child and family social work is, what difference it makes and what factors shape it. This has involved studies of the impact of training, supervision and organisational change on practice, developing coding schemes of good practice and exploring different types of outcomes within children's services. Several studies have involved applying Motivational Interviewing to child and family social work. I currently lead a major infrastructure award of £3 million from Health and Care Research Wales which includes CASCADE, the Centre for Trials Research and SAIL secure data linkage at Swansea to develop new research approaches for children's social care, enhance the involvement of children and parents and increase sector engagement with and use of research.


I currently supervise 8-10 PhD students, covering issues as diverse as ethnographies of social work decision-making, understanding the needs of young carers and exploring what leadership is in children's social care. I am particularly interested in work focussed on direct observation of practice or with the potential for an evaluative component.

CASCADE, based within one of the largest Schools of Social Science in the United Kingdom, is an exceptionally good place for postgraduate study and we have had a great deal of success in obtaining both funding for PhD study and postdoctoral research for students after they graduate. If you would like to discuss study within CASCADE do contact me.