Helen Machin

Title: Lecturer in Social Work
Phone: +44(0)1782 733559
Email: h.e.machin1@keele.ac.uk
Location: Chancellors Building, CBC0.014
Role:
Contacting me: email

Academic Background

I am currently completing a PhD in Social Work in the School of Social Science and Public Policy at Keele University.  Prior to beginning my doctoral degree at Keele, I completed an MA in Social Work at Liverpool John Moores University and a BA in English Literature at Durham University.  Additionally, I studied Mandarin to an intermediate level at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.  Having completed a postgraduate certificate in higher education, I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Professional Experience

I am a HCPC registered Social Worker with experience of practice in a statutory children and families setting which included work with children in need and children with disabilities.  I have also worked with Chinese children and families in a community setting.  Before training as a Social Worker, I taught English as a foreign language in both China and the UK.  

My research interests include undocumented / irregular migration, the needs and experiences of the UK-Chinese community and the intersection between welfare and migration.  I am also developing a programme of research focused on internal migration within China and social work practice responses to internal migrants.

PhD Title: Undocumented Chinese families and social work

BACKGROUND: 
There are between 417,000 and 863,000 undocumented migrants in the UK (Gordon, 2009).  Estimates suggest that between 23% and 36% of this population (between 150,000 and 200,000) are Chinese (ILO, 2008).  Attempts to reduce undocumented migration through legislation and policy have led to fewer routes to regularisation (Duevell, 2011) which has left the UK with a population of irregular migrants who are legally and politically excluded and unable to fully contribute to their communities (Sigona, 2012 p.11).  This is a challenge for frontline professionals employed by local authorities who have a duty to support vulnerable irregular families based on an assessment of their needs which may be enhanced due to their exclusion from nationally funded welfare.  Social work professionals make decisions about how to intervene in the lives of vulnerable undocumented migrants whilst working within policy frameworks that formally exclude irregular migrants from central government support.  This study will explore this challenge by focusing on the experiences of social workers and undocumented Chinese families in the UK. 

 

STUDY AIMS:
The study has two aims;

1)     To explore undocumented Chinese families’ experiences of life in the UK, and;

2)     To examine the role of professional social workers in responding to undocumented families’ needs. 

 

METHODS:
Research will be conducted in three parts;

1)     15 undocumented Chinese migrants (aged 16 and above) will be invited to take part in participatory photography interviews.  Each participant will be given a camera and asked to take photographs which convey the impact of undocumented status on their lives in the UK.  These photographs will be discussed during in-depth interviews.  Undocumented participants will also be asked to discuss their experiences (if any) of involvement with social workers.   Three key informants (e.g. Chinese community workers, church leaders and family members of undocumented migrants) will also be invited to take part in one in-depth interview to discuss their knowledge and experiences of how undocumented status affects Chinese families in the UK.

2)     15 social workers and three social work managers who have experience of working with or managing cases involving undocumented families will be invited to take part in one in-depth interview.  During the interview, participants will be asked to discuss their experience of working with undocumented families.  They will also be asked a series of questions about their views of undocumented migration and the role of social workers.

3)     Anonymised interview data will be analysed in collaboration with Chinese social work academics at Fudan University, Shanghai.  This cross-national approach will ensure that the study is informed by perspectives from both the UK and mainland China on the topic of irregular emigration and professional practice.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE AND POLICY:
The study is centred on current UK government and media debates about the UK’s responsibilities towards the growing population of international migrants.  Project outputs will contribute to the development of good practice for social workers in their work with undocumented families.  Recommendations about how to improve local and national policies relating to social work practice with undocumented families will also be developed.   

Selected Publications

  • Machin H and Shardlow SM. 2017. Overcoming ethical barriers to research with hidden social groups. Research Ethics. doi> link>
  • Machin HE. 2017. A bone of contention: reflections on the experiences of mature learners in social work education. Journal of Development and Higher Education.

Full Publications List show

Journal Articles

  • Machin H and Shardlow SM. 2017. Overcoming ethical barriers to research with hidden social groups. Research Ethics. doi> link>
  • Machin HE. 2017. A bone of contention: reflections on the experiences of mature learners in social work education. Journal of Development and Higher Education.

I am currently module lead for the following modules:

UNDERGRADUATE

  • BA1 Area of Practice (1) Working with Children and Families
  • BA2 Area of Practice (2) Working with Children and Families
  • BA2 Social Work Theory and Methods (1).