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Dr Philip Gilligan

PositionHonorary Visiting Research Fellow
DepartmentSocial Work and Social Care
Telephone+44 (0)1274 23 3073

Research Interests (key words only)

Effective services for young people in response to child sexual exploitation; Religion, belief and social work practice; Cultural competence in social work practice; Child abuse in religious contexts; Child abuse and minority communities; Engaging fathers in child and family social work

Teaching and Supervisory Responsibilities

PhD supervisor


Born in Birmingham

Study History

  • PhD - University of Bradford, (July, 2013) 
  • CCETSW Practice Teaching Award / Postgraduate Certificate in Practice Teaching. University of Central Lancashire (July 1991)
  • Certificate of Qualification in Social Work / MA in Economic and Social Studies - University of Manchester (December 1976)
  • BA (Hons) in Modern History - University of Oxford (July 1974)

Professional History

  • Jan 1995 – Aug 2004 - Co-ordinator, Alma Street Project for children and young people who have been sexually abused. Co-ordinator, Practice Learning. (Bradford Family Service Unit)
  • Dec 1992 – Jan 1995 - Training and Development Officer (DipSW and Practice Teaching) (Kirklees MDC)
  • Apr 1992- Dec 1992 - Service Manager: Rochdale Social Services Team for Children and Young People with Disabilities (Catholic Children’s Rescue Society (Diocese of Salford))
  • Apr 1984 – Aug 1992 -Centre Director / Practitioner, Rochdale Family Casework Centre (Catholic Children’s Rescue Society (Diocese of Salford))
  • Jan 1982- Dec 1983 - Community Development Social Worker Kabito Family Helper Project (Council of Keiyo and Marakwet, Kenya / Voluntary Service Overseas)
  • Oct 1976-December 1981 - Social Worker / Senior Social Work Practitioner (Amber Valley Area Office, Derbyshire)

Professional Activities

  • Registered Social Worker
  • Member of British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect

Research Areas

  • Social work practice (children and families)
  • Social work, religion, belief and culture
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Child sexual exploitation
  • Sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy in the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales

Current Projects

Project 1:
Analysing research data collected from current and former service users of specialist projects working with young people affected by child sexual exploitation to give voice to their views about what has and will help them to move-on from and avoid child such abuse.

Project 2:
Analysing data collected from undergraduate and postgraduate social work students in Romania in relation to the impact of religion and belief in their professional practice in order to allow comparison with similar data collected from students in the UK.

Project 3:
Preparing contributions for the international workshop on "Sexual abuse in the church and other institutional settings" at the Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law Bilbao, Spain in April 2014.

Project 4:
On behalf of the British Association for the Study and Protection of Child Abuse and Neglect, preparing a ‘Faith Event’ to be held jointly with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Sheffield in May 2014

Project 5:
Analysing data collected from applicants to the MA Social Work in relation to service users’ culture, religion and other beliefs

Research Collaborations

  • Ongoing collaboration with Barnardo’s Turnaround Service in Bradford to collect data on the views of young people about what has helped and will help them to move-on and avoid child sexual exploitation; from November 2012. .
  • Eramus visit to the Western University of Timisoara, Romania to teach undergraduate and postgraduate social work students.



  • ‘The Challenge of Cultural Explanations and Religious Requirements for Children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions: South Asian Muslim Parents in Bradford, England’, Journal of Religion, Disability and Health, 17 (4)
  • Editorial: special issue on ‘Religion and Spirituality and Social Work’, International Social Work, 56 (3): 271-275 (with Sheila Furness)


  • 'Religion and Belief' in A. Worsley, T. Mann, A.Olsen and E.Mason-Whitehead (Eds.) Key Concepts in Social Work Practice, London: Sage.
  • ‘Contrasting narratives on responses to victims and survivors of clerical abuse in England and Wales: challenges to Catholic Church discourse’, Child Abuse Review, 21 (6), 427–439
  • 'Clerical Abuse and Laicisation: an exploration of rhetoric and reality in the Catholic Church in England and Wales', Child Abuse Review, 21 (6), 427–439
  • ‘‘It never came up’: encouragements and discouragements to addressing religion and belief in professional practice. What do social work students have to say?’, British Journal of Social Work (with Sheila Furness). Published online: October 11, 2012.
  • 'Faith-based Organisations and UK Welfare Services: Exploring Some Ongoing Dilemmas', Social Policy and Society, 11(4): 601 - 612 (with Sheila Furness).


  • 2011 - ‘Evaluating the impact of Pyramid for Parents courses in North Town in 2009-2010: listening to the views of mothers and fathers’, Pastoral Care in Education, 29 (3), 175-191, Pastoral Care in Education (with Martin Manby).
  • 'Fathers' involvement in children's services: exploring local and national issues in 'Moorlandstown', British Journal of Social Work, 42 (3): 500-518 (with Martin Manby and Carole Pickburn).


  • 'Social Work, Religion and Belief: Developing a Framework for Practice' British Journal of Social Work, Vol: 40, 2185-2202 (with Sheila Furness)
  • 'Faith-based Approaches', Chapter 6 in M. Gray and S. Webb, Ethics and Value Perspectives in Social Work, London: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Religion, Belief and Social Work: Making A Difference, Bristol: Policy Press (with Sheila Furness)


  • 'Considering religion and beliefs in child protection and safeguarding work: is any consensus emerging?', Child Abuse Review, 18 (2), 94-110



  • 'Child abuse and spirit possession: not just an issue for African migrants.' childRight, 245, 28 -31
  • 'The Common Assessment Framework: Does the Reality match the Rhetoric?', Child and Family Social Work, 13 (2), 177-187 (with Martin Manby)
  • Social service support for disabled children, children with complex needs and their families' in J. Teare, (ed.) Caring for Children with Complex Needs in Community Settings, Oxford: Blackwell Publications (with Juliet Taylor)




  • 'The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work Practice: views and experiences of social workers and students', British Journal of Social Work, 36 (4), 617-637 (with Sheila Furness)
  • 'Well-motivated Reformists or Nascent Radicals: How do applicants to the degree in social work see social problems, their origins and solutions?', British Journal of Social Work, 37 (4), 735-760
  • 'Cultural barriers to the disclosure of child sexual abuse in Asian communities: listening to what women say', British Journal of Social Work, 36 (8), 1361-1377 (with Shamim Akhtar)



Research into social work, religion and belief has both stimulated and informed debate about the need to recognise and appreciate the significance of religion and belief in the lives of service users and the impact of personal belief on practice. Since publication of Furness and Gilligan (2010) such activity has increased noticeably, in the wake of increased and widening international interest from both practitioners and academics eager to find out more about matters relating to religion and belief. For example, the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre (CWRC) commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to conduct a review of previous research on ‘child abuse linked to faith or belief’ to be used to help inform future policy in the area. Its recommendations include: “Further research is needed to explore the attitudes and responses of child protection professionals in relation to religion and child abuse, in order for practitioners to take account of the religion and beliefs of those they are working with (see Gilligan and Furness, 2006)”.

Furness and Gilligan (2010) and associated journal articles have also contributed to the development of resources to enhance professional practice. Such publications provide the overwhelming majority of the literature and guidance available to social work practitioners, managers and educators on the subject. They are also being used and cited by a range of researchers and educators across the world in their teaching, books and journal articles on a regular basis. The Furness/ Gilligan framework is a resource for social work and health practitioners to develop an appreciation and understanding of religion and belief. At least two US based academic programmes refer to their work in their curriculum and teaching schedules - see for example: and



Public/Academic/Stakeholder Engagement

Conference Presentations (selected):

  • ‘Responding to religion and belief in social work: needs, resistance and dilemmas’ University of Chester, 11 December 2013. 
  • 'Clerical Abuse and Laicisation. An Exploration of Rhetoric and Reality in Response to Recommendations 77 and 78 of A Programme for Action. Final Report of the Independent Review on Child Protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.' presented at the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect eighth National Congress: 'Keeping Children Safe in an Uncertain World: Learning from Evidence and Practice' - A multi-disciplinary congress on child protection and welfare, Queen's University Belfast 15-18 April 2012
  • 'The place of religion and belief in social work practice' at the annual Sociology of Religion Study Group conference (SOCREL), University of Chester 28-30 March 2012 (with Sheila Furness)
  •  Beyond Belief: Exploring the Impact of Religion and Belief on Professional Practice' conference held at the University of Bradford, 7 to 9 September 2011 (organised with Sheila Furness)
  • 'The impact of culture on disclosure: an overview and some specific examples' presented at Bradford Specialist Sexual Violence & Abuse Advisory Group conference "Invisible Boys and Men: Understanding and Responding to Male Sexual Victimisation in the 21st century", University of Bradford, 10 June 2011
  • 'Social work, religion and belief: a framework for reflection on practice', British Association for the Study of Spirituality, First International Conference "Spirituality in a Changing World", 4 May - 6 May 2010, Windsor, UK and European Conference on Religion, Spirituality and Health, 13 - 15 May 2010, Bern, Switzerland (with Sheila Furness)
  • 'Fully committed? Rhetoric and reality in response to priests convicted of abusing children: one parishioner's experiences in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford.', British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Seventh National Congress: Changing Landscapes, Emerging Challenges - Contemporary issues in safeguarding children and young people, 14 – 16 September 2009
  • 'The impact of religion in child protection and safeguarding work: is there any consensus in professional responses?', Welfare and Values in Europe, Uppsala, Sweden 26 -28 March 2009
  • 'Some Cultural Barriers to the Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse in Muslim Communities: Listening to What Women Say', Welfare and Values in Europe, Uppsala, Sweden 26 -28 March 2009
  • 'Can researchers give effective voice to communities to which they do not belong?', Researching 'race' and racism – methodological challenge, ESRC National Centre for Research Methods Seminar Series, Southampton, 11 March 2009
  • 'The Common Assessment Framework: Does the reality match the rhetoric?', CAFCASS Research Conference, Birmingham, 27 February 2009

In the News/Media

BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Programme (March and June 2011) and Channel 4 News (September 2010)

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