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ESRC Wales DTP PhD studentship in Empirical Studies in Law: The Role of Bailiffs in Wales

This funding opportunity has expired.

Key facts

Application deadline 1 February 2017
Start date October 2017
Duration 3 or 4 years (or part-time equivalent)
Funding body ESRC
Level of study Postgraduate research
Award type PhD studentship

The aim of the project is to provide an empirical foundation for a comprehensive understanding of the position of bailiffs vis-à-vis public bodies within the justice system in Wales.

To achieve the well-being goals under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, public bodies must maximise their revenue-raising potential, which creates a tension between the structural dimension of public value whereby the well-being of the general public is enhanced through investment and the individual dimension whereby individuals vulnerable on account of their physical or mental health, or socio-economic circumstances, are protected.

This tension is particularly acute in the context of civil enforcement. Where routine requests for payment fail, public bodies will employ bailiffs to collect the debts owed. Bailiffs are thus the personnel within the civil justice system who meet debtors in their home. A recent report by StepChange highlighted that 50% of their clients in England and Wales visited by a bailiff claimed they were treated unfairly and, significantly, 51% of bailiff action was to enforce public authority debts. Debt advice charities campaign for reform, emphasising the links between bailiff action and poverty, and the risks to vulnerable debtors. This area of law and practice lacks transparency, and there is a dearth of independent empirical evidence on which to base reform.

From one perspective, bailiffs act as the operational arm of public bodies who make debt collecting decisions in relation to vulnerable individuals. However, arguably they should be characterised as representing the justice system, and thus tasked with well-being obligations, including the protection of vulnerable individuals. This characterisation has significant implications for the regulatory framework for enforcement, and should be factored into proposals for a Welsh jurisdiction.

Non-academic organisations involved: StepChange (Debt charity) and Marston Group (Private sector enforcement firm)

Phases of the study

  • The first phase of the study will analyse data collected by StepChange and Marston to identify the extent of bailiff action, the success of action, and the characteristics of the debtor population in two Welsh council areas with contrasting socio-economic characteristics, one being Merthyr Tydfil.
  • The second qualitative phase will examine the structure of the contracts regulating the relationship between bailiffs and public sector creditors and use semi-structured interviews to establish the stakeholders' perceptions of the locus of responsibility for protection of vulnerable debtors.
  • The final phase will work with the key stakeholders to develop proposals for reform grounded in the empirical data. The research findings are expected to influence working practices and contract structures in bailiff/public body relationships and inform future bailiff regulation.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study, and studentships are available as either ‘1+3’ (i.e. one full-time year of social science research methods training at Master's level followed by three years of full-time Doctoral study, or the part-time equivalent), or ‘+3’ (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant.

Visit our ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Centre webpage for all current ESRC studentships at Cardiff University.

Supervisors

Contact

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
cahill-ocallaghanr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 4479
Dr Wendy Kennett

Dr Wendy Kennett

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
kennettw@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 5482

Funding details

Tuition fee support Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum
Additional funding offered Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of up to £750 for three years for full-time students (pro rata for part-time students).

Eligibility criteria

Residency UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply
Academic criteria

ESRC studentships are highly competitive, candidates should have an excellent academic background in the social sciences, holding a first or strong upper second class degree. Applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master’s degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a +3 award.

Contact

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
cahill-ocallaghanr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 4479
Dr Wendy Kennett

Dr Wendy Kennett

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
kennettw@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 5482

Consideration is automatic upon application for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Law (October 2017 start date), either full- or part-time, submitted by the deadline of 12.00 pm, 1 February 2017.

In the funding section of your application, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from the ESRC.

Guidelines for the application sections:

  1. The covering letter should be addressed to Dr Wendy Kennett and must name the collaborative studentship being applied for. It must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Cardiff University, and the Empirical Studies in Law Pathway; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; and your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages. Please also specify whether you wish to apply on a +3 or 1+3 basis.
  2. Your academic / professional qualifications should include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).
  3. All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves and request a reference to be submitted.
  4. Include a Curriculum Vitae, no longer than two pages.
  5. For collaborative studentships, your research proposal should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. The proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal:
    1. your reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research
    2. an overview of some key research literature relevant to the study
    3. your proposals for developing the design and methods of the study
    4. a description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic)
    5. references.

We reserve the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Contact

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
cahill-ocallaghanr@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 4479
Dr Wendy Kennett

Dr Wendy Kennett

Senior Lecturer in Law

Email:
kennettw@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44(0)29 2087 5482

Funding opportunity provided by:

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Eligible research programmes