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Dr Sarah Vicary

Profile summary

  • Regional Academic Staff
  • Staff Tutor (Leeds Office)
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
  • School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Regions & Nations (HWSC)
  • sarah.vicary

Professional biography

I have been a qualified social worker since graduating with an Masters in Social Work in 1987. My PhD explored the role and experiences of approved mental health practitioners. I am registered with the Health Care Professions Council and was elected to sit on the Mental Health Faculty of the College of Social Work which is now the Advisory Group for the Chief Social Worker, Adults.  I sit on the Advisory Board for the British Library Social Welfare portal and am appointed as a specialist committee member for the NICE Quality Advisory Committee Guidleine on transition for Mental Health Hospital to Community, for which I was social care topic advisor. 

I was for a number of years an Area Commissioner for the Mental Health Act Commission . Currently I lead the social work degree for The Open University in the North West of England and in Yorkshire and was, until recently the social work lead for the Student Support Team and Co-qualifications lead, social work. I have worked extensively in Adult Social Services, primarily within mental health, practising as a frontline social worker, an Approved Social Worker under the Mental Health Act 1983, a development and training officer and for six years a senior manager in an inner city multi disciplinary emergency mental health setting.

Follow me on Twitter @sao_sarah



Research interests

My doctoral study with the University of Manchester explored the role and experiences of the Approved Mental Health Professionals; a designation laid down under Section 13 (1A) and (2) of the Mental Health Act 1983, England and Wales, as amended by Mental Health Act 2007, England and Wales. This research explored the role and experiences of a reconfigured statutory designation from the viewpoint of those undertaking it and in the context of two major policy changes which the designation encapsulates; the first is the reform of mental health legislation in England and Wales, the second is the introduction of‘new ways of working in mental health. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, this research explored the impact on the role and the experienceof thos who accomplish it. A visual research method, an adpatation of rich pictures was also used to collate data.

Other research interests lie in the history of social work. I coordinate the Social Work History Network and edit a biennial e-bulletin.I have undertaken reserach into the awareness and training of social workers and nurses in bruising as a sign of non-accidental injury in older people and also on the impact on mental health social workers of integration.


Teaching interests

My teaching interests lie in mental health social work and social work law.

Impact and engagement


I have delivered lectures at a number of international conferences for the European Conference on Social Work Research and the International Association for Law and Mental Health.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Social Work Research GroupResearch GroupFaculty of Health and Social Care


The future has a long history: the influence of the study of social work history on education and practice (2017-07)
Vicary, Sarah
Bulletin of the Social Work History Network, 4(1) (pp. 8-10)
A deliberative study into the impact of integration on mental health social work in England: merely a dialogue or activism? (2017)
Vicary, Sarah and Bailey, John
Journal of mental health training education and practice ((In Press))
A reflective journal as learning process and contribution to quality and validity in interpretative phenomenological analysis (2016)
Vicary, Sarah; Young, Alys and Hicks, Stephen
Qualitative Social Work ((Early Access))
Bruising in older adults: what do social workers need to know? (2015-11)
Matthews, Sarah A. O. and Reynolds, Janet
Journal of Adult Protection, 17(6) (pp. 351-359)
A note on 'image' methodology for social work qualitative research: socially inclusive reserach methods for service users (2011-09)
Matthews, Sarah
Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 15(3) (pp. 119-127)
Underpinning themes, theories and research (2014-04-11)
Matthews, Sarah
In: Matthews, Sarah; O'Hare , Philip and Hemmington, Jill eds. Approved Mental Health Practice: Essential Themes for Students and Practitioners (pp. 7-22)
ISBN : 9781137000132 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke
The changing role of social workers in developing contexts for mental health professionals (2011-09-03)
Matthews, Sarah
In: Seden, Janet; Matthews, Sarah; McCormick, Mick and Morgan, Alun eds. Professional Development in Social Work. Post-qualifying Social Work (pp. 83-89)
ISBN : 978-0-415-55335-3 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon
The Liverpool Mental Health Crisis Service and its effectiveness’ (1999)
Matthews, Sarah
In: Tomlinson, Dylan Ronald and Allen, Kevin J. eds. Crisis Services and Hospital Crises
ISBN : 1840143894 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham
Approved Mental Health Practice: Essential Themes for Students and Practitioners (2014-04-11)
Matthews, Sarah; O'Hare, Philip and Hemmington, Jill eds.
ISBN : 9781137000132 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke
Professional Development in Social Work: Complex Issues in Practice (2010-09-03)
Seden, Janet; Matthews, Sarah; McCormick, Michael and Morgan, Alun eds.
Post-qualifying Social Work
ISBN : 978-0-415-55336-0 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
The Critical Practitioner in Social Work and Health Care (2008)
Fraser, Sandy and Matthews, Sarah eds.
ISBN : 978-1-4129-4840-1 | Publisher : SAGE Publications Ltd | Published : London


Victoria Cumming, recipient of the Andrew Cornell Award 2017

WELS student wins Andrew Cornwell Award 2017

Victoria Cumming received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Social Work and was also given the Andrew Cornwell Award 2017 for the highest-performing graduate in the social work programme at the Open University's degree ceremony

6th November 2017
See all

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