Professor David Shemmings

Emeritus Professor of Child Protection Research


Professor Shemmings is the author of more than 60 articles, books and chapters on relationally-based social work theory, research and practice. In 2010, he co-authored a government-funded, C4EO Knowledge Review on 'Working with Highly Resistant Families'

Late in 2017, David jointly edited, with Professor Michael Little, two Special Editions of the Journal of Children’s Services on the Future of Child Protection Social Work. He wrote an article in the second edition entitled ‘Future-proofing Child Protection Social Work’. In 2019, with Yvonne, he had two book chapters published - ‘Contemporary attachment theory: how can it inform social workers?’ in the Routledge Handbook of Social Work. (ed. Payne, M). London: Routledge) and 'Emotional and Behavioural Development: The Importance of Attachment' in The Child’s World, (eds. Howarth, J. & Platt, D.) London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (This is a rewrite of one of their best-selling titles). In May 2019 the fifth edition of 'Child Abuse: An Evidence Base for Confident Practice' was published by the Open University/MacGraw-Hill which he wrote with Dr David Wilkins - one of David's former PhD students and Claire Pascoe - one of the Centre's MA in Advanced Child Protection graduates.

Currently, Professor Shemmings leads the Advanced Child Protection stream within the West London Alliance Post-qualifying Initiative (involving eight London boroughs) and directs the Attachment and Relationship-based Practice training in 40 child protection organisations across the UK and Europe.  

He is also visiting Professor of Child Protection Research at Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Professor Shemmings qualified as a teacher in 1974 at the University of Sussex and worked with traumatised children for a number of years before becoming a Senior Policy Adviser in services to children and families to the Director of Social Services in Essex, and then Deputy Director of Social Services in Southend. He then spent 17 years lecturing at the University of East Anglia before becoming Professor of Social Work Research at Middlesex University in 2005. He joined the University of Kent as Professor of Social Work in 2007. He was also Deputy Head of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research from 2007-2010. 

Professor Shemmings has an advanced post-graduate qualification from Cambridge Institute of Education and a Master’s degree and PhD from the University of East Anglia.  He was awarded an OB _ in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2014 for 'Services to Child Protection'.  

Research interests

Professor Shemmings has been working with managers, supervisors and practitioners to ‘deepen and strengthen’ knowledge of attachment theory and research in child protection through the Attachment and Relationship-based Practice training.

He was one of three researchers in a DH-sponsored study of 220 family members' involvement in child protection processes, the results of which were reported in the influential Messages from Research series. He retains an interest in this area of study and directed two research projects into the use of Family Group Conferences, one with youth offenders, the other in mental health. 

He is interested in mixed methods in social research, especially the use of QMethodology to explore “patterned subjectivities” Path Analysis and Structural Equation Modelling. 

With Dr Jane Reeves, Professor Shemmings established the Centre for Child Protection. This work involves the development of ‘serious games’, which are immersive, virtual reality platforms to help professionals.

Until 2009, he was the principal investigator of a research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council entitled 'An Action Research Project to Increase the Confidence and Capability of Academic Social Work Researchers across the UK'. 

Most recent research grants 

  • 2013 - now Joint lead on research totalling £2.4m with the Centre for Child Protection, University of Kent 
  • 2011 - Lead on a University of Kent Innovation and Enterprise Ideas Factory grant ‘Developing the Kent Online Child Protection Hub – new approaches to child protection skills and methods using virtual reality environment technology and online lectures, seminars, discussion groups and blogs 
  • 2010 - Co-I on the ESRC RDI 4 Increasing the competence and confidence of social work researchers III 
  • 2010 - Lead on the West London Alliance Advanced Child Protection Programme 


Professor Shemmings contributes to modules on the MA in Advanced Child Protection.  


Please contact Professor Shemmings if you have a proposal in his areas of interest.  He currently supervises four PhD students.



  • Expert Panel for the DfE’s What Works? Initiative.   
  • UK-wide Planning Team established to implement A Social Work Research Strategy in Higher Education: 2006-2020 by the Joint Universities Council for Social Work Education Committee (JUC-SWEC).

Current External Examining 

  • Leeds University, BA programme. 
  • York University, MSc programme 
  • University of Bath, BA programme 
  • UEA, PQ/MA programme  
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