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Dr Kelly’s two main areas of research are disability studies and children in out-of-home care. She also has an active interest in participatory research including creative methodologies for involving disabled people in research. Dr Kelly is Co-Chair of the Disability Research Network at QUB which aims to foster collaborative disability research partnerships and further develop disability research, policy and practice.

Dr Kelly’s research has included recent studies on safeguarding disabled children, disabled children in out-of-home care and disabled care leavers. These are the first studies to examine the characteristics and experiences of disabled children in the care system in Northern Ireland and have led to improvements in the capture of data on disability within the care population. Given the paucity of research on this topic internationally, these studies have also made a significant contribution to this field of study globally.

Dr Kelly is currently working with colleagues on two new studies: a project on supported decision making involving disabled people as peer researchers; and an evaluation of a support programme for adults with intellectual disabilities who are victims of sexual violence.

The objective of the research activity is to develop a strong disability research agenda in partnership with disabled children and adults that advances knowledge in the field of disability studies and informs change in policy and practice affecting the lives of disabled people.

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Open to PhD applications in the field of 

  • Disability studies
  • Transitions to Adult Life
  • Children and young people in care
  • Care leavers
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Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science

School Of Social Sciences, Education And Social Work

Disability Research Network


Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation


Research students

PhD title: The lived experience of young people with a learning disability in a life sharing therapeutic community

Name: Catherine Reilly
Years of Study: 
Country: Northern Ireland

PhD title: Hospital care to promote the wellbeing of teenagers and young adults with cancer: Young person, parent and professional perspectives

Name: Suzanne Mooney
Years of Study:
Country: Northern Ireland


Alumni: where are they now?

Patricia McNeilly

PhD title: Empowerment and participation in services for disabled children and their families

Years of Study:
Country: Northern Ireland
Current position: Lecturer in School of Nursing & Midwifery, QUB


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