Ageing and social care

Ageing and social care (ASC) is an emerging research strength within the School, and builds upon the School of Law’s existing excellence in socio-legal, ethical, and doctrinal scholarship. The School’s strength in this field is emphasized through a focus on ageing conceived of broadly as a longitudinal phenomenon, and therefore includes research on every aspect of the life course from early to mid-childhood, through to old age.

ASC researchers draw on a wide range of theoretical, philosophical, empirical, and doctrinal approaches to address important questions around the law, policy, and ethics of ageing and social care. The School also offers two longstanding interdisciplinary Masters programmes in this area on Child Care Law and Practice, and Safeguarding Adults: Law, Policy, and Practice. The students on both of these courses are mainly practitioners from social work, nursing, or legal backgrounds. The School also offers the Best Interests Assessor module which trains relevant professionals to undertake Deprivation of Liberty assessments.

The members of ASC have a diverse range of research interests within this theme, including:

  • Adult safeguarding and social care
  • Safeguarding children
  • Mental capacity and mental disability
  • Dementia and the law
  • Mental health
  • End-of-life and palliative care
  • The welfare of the child
  • The rights of older people
  • Ageism and autonomy
  • Criminal sanctions for neglect and ill-treatment

If you would like to find out more about the Ageing and Social Care research cluster please contact Laura Pritchard-Jones:

The members of the cluster are involved in a number of exciting research projects on the topic of ageing and social care. One of the key strengths of the department is its expertise in issues of adult safeguarding. Professor Alison Brammer was the Principal Investigator on the ESRC-funded seminar series ‘Safeguarding Adults: A New Legal Framework’, the aim of which is to explore how the new legal rules around safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect developed through a policy process, the challenges of interpretation that emerge and how practitioners and their organisations can be supported to deliver the intentions and requirements of the Care Act 2014 and keep people safe from abuse and harm.

Professor Brammer, and Laura Pritchard-Jones, together with Eva Luksaite in the School of Medicine and colleagues at VOICES of Stoke have also recently been awarded a 1+3 studentship by the Economic and Social Research Council. The successful candidate will be looking at the way in which needs assessments under the Care Act 2014 are carried out for people facing multiple exclusion homelessness, and evaluating the success of a VOICES toolkit in engaging individuals and professionals in the assessment process.

The cluster’s research interests lie broadly within the spheres of adult safeguarding, social care, and mental health law, children and the life course, and ethico-legal perspectives on ageing and social care.  

Adult Safeguarding, Social Care, and Mental Health

Alison’s research interests more generally lie in both adult and child social welfare law, adult safeguarding, and elder abuse, and she also leads the Social Work Law Association. She is also currently working with Dr Laura Pritchard-Jones and colleagues at other institutions on a project looking at the rights of older people in care homes.  Laura’s research interests are predominantly around social welfare law more broadly, and mental capacity law. She has a particular interests in how the law applies to older adults, and adults living with dementia. Dr Ezgi Taşcıoğlu is a socio-legal scholar, exploring the role of law in the production of marginalised sexualities and gender identities. Currently, this exploration develops in two main strands: the construction of transgender citizenship in everyday life in urban Turkey, and the regulation of intellectually disabled people’s intimate lives in England and Wales. Ezgi is particularly interested in the interactions of law with social and cognitive (in)justice. Her previous work has looked at everyday decision making and supported will-making by intellectually disabled people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

There is also a strong interest in mental health law and mental disability more widely within the cluster. Dr Michael Fay’s current research, for example, incorporates themes of mental health and communication; he is particularly interested in the mental health and well-being of undergraduate students and how their development of academic identity and community membership during the 'student journey' impacts upon their mental health. He is currently working on a project, with colleagues at Keele, to examine academic identity and student mental health.  

Children and the Life Course

The cluster also has research strengths in ageing and social care as it pertains to children and young adults. Dr Kirsty Moreton's research interests, for example, lie in the area of children and children's decision-making, especially as it relates to medicine, healthcare and social care, and together Kirsty and Laura are also working on a project to review and explore how well the legal system safeguards decision-making of 16-17 year olds following a number of recent high profile legal developments in this area.

Dr Rachel Treloar’s research interests lie at the intersections of family law, social policy and lived experiences. Her recent research sought to understand how parents who at one time experienced a high-conflict separation process make meaning of and navigate the experience over time. Despite the difficulties parents then faced (and in some cases still do face), her research highlighted how individuals change, make sense of, and respond to their circumstances across the life course, thereby exercising agency. This personal process not only occurs over the individual life course and within the context of evolving personal and social relations, but it also occurs in a social, political, and legal context that also changes over time and across generations. Hence, her research also explored the social dimensions of this transformation. In addition to this, Hannah Gibbons-Jones’ research interests lie in caring and familial relationships (legally or socially constructed). Including the forming and ending of marriage and civil partnerships by adults with learning disabilities, relationship support for elderly couples in residential care, and sibling and young carers. 

Ethico-Legal Aspects to Ageing and Social Care

The Ageing and Social Care research cluster also prides itself on being highly inter-disciplinary, and researchers are also interested in approaching social care and social welfare from an ethical perspective. Dr Anthony Wrigley is an ethicist with research interests in a range of issues particularly related to ageing loss of capacity or personhood, the nature of vulnerability, and the concept of hope and dying in restricted environments. He was recently holder of a major award and Fellowship at Notre Dame and Cornell Universities in the USA on the topic of hope in the face of inevitable death. Together with other colleagues at Keele he was also involved in a funded project entitled ‘Supporting Death, Dying and Bereavement in the English Criminal Justice System’. Dr Jonathan Hughes is a philosophical bioethicist with interests in resource allocation, conscientious objection in healthcare and ethical issues related to autism. He has written on the difficulty of justifying allocation of resources to end-of-life palliative care on the basis of standard cost-effectiveness measures and is currently interested in researching the ethical issues raised by age-based rationing of healthcare resources.

Researchers in the Ageing and Social Care research cluster have also published widely across the discipline, including:

  • A Brammer and L Pritchard-Jones, Safeguarding Adults, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)
  • R Treloar, ‘High-conflict divorce involving children: parents’ meaning-making and agency’ (2018) 40(3) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 340-361
  • L Pritchard-Jones, ‘“Adults at risk”: “vulnerability” by any other name?’ (2018) 20(1) Journal of Adult Protection 47-58
  • A Brammer and J Boylan (eds), Critical Issues in Social Work Law, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)
  • L Pritchard-Jones, ‘This Man with Dementia - Othering the Person with Dementia in the Court of Protection’, (2016) 24(4) Medical Law Review 518
  • L Pritchard-Jones, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the ‘Vulnerable Older Adult’, (2016) 38(1) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 51
  • A Brammer, Social Work Law, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 4th edn)
  • A Wrigley, ‘An Eliminativist Approach to Vulnerability’, (2015) 29(7) Bioethics 478
  • A Brammer, ‘Carers and the Mental Capacity Act 2005: Angels Permitted, Devils Prosecuted?’ (2014) 8 Criminal Law Review 589
  • K Moreton, ‘Gillick Reinstated: Judging Mid-Childhood Competence in Healthcare Law: An NHS Trust v ABC & A Local Authority [2014] EWHC 1445 (Fam)’ (2014 23(2) Medical Law Review 303-331
  • J Hughes, ‘Palliative Care and the QALY Problem’, (2005) 13(4) Health Care Analysis 289

In addition to the above, members of the cluster are currently supervising a number of doctoral and MA students, including, among others, projects on the following topics:

  • Sibling Children and Adoption (Supervisor: Alison Brammer)
  • “Exploring Nurses’ Thoughts About Best Interests Decisions for People with Advanced Dementia: a Qualitative, Exploratory Study (Co-Supervisor: Jonathan Hughes)


Members of the Ageing and Social Care cluster have also organised a number of successful events over the past few years. In June 2019, the School hosted a one-day conference entitled ‘Dementia, Disability, and Human Rights’, funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy, the Keele Institute for Social inclusion, and the School of Law. The conference was a great success, with around 100 delegates and an exceptional range of speakers including individuals living with dementia, together with academics and practitioners. Larry Gardner FRSA, from the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group, stated that "yesterday’s colloquium was very valuable, of tremendous interest and, contributed significantly to the field of law in respects of dementia...What I found thrilling yesterday were the presentations of work in progress on sexuality, on end-of-life and on challenges faced by the hospice movement. In fact the whole proceedings had a rather daring and provocative tone; provocations force us to think more widely."



In February 2017 Professor Wayne Martin from the University of Essex came to Keele and delivered a guest lecture on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The lecture was attended by staff, students, and members of the public alike.

Capacity, Incapacity and Human Rights: A CRPD Perspective

Professor Wayne Martin from the Essex Autonomy Project at the University of Essex talks about the implications of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities