Maria Brent

About

I am the Course Lead for Post Qualifying Programmes and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Work and Social Care. I am also a Practice Educator and Best Interest Assessor, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I am a registered social worker and qualified at Kingston University in 1996. I have worked for many years in adult community care services, and my professional interest areas are safeguarding, mental capacity,  self-neglect, and working with people living with dementia. I am the university representative on Kingston's Alzheimer's Dementia Friendly Community Group (DFCG), which focuses on raising awareness and developing the skills and knowledge of students and the local community in supporting people living with dementia.  I have and continue to lead on a range of interprofessional dementia raising awareness events (see videos for links to these events). I have also developed a Special Interest Group (SIG), which increases students' knowledge and skills in supporting people living with dementia with regular events to promote awareness.

I am passionate about supporting social work students and practitioners to develop their skills and knowledge in person-centred approaches.  I have developed post-qualifying modules in Safeguarding Adults at Risk, which explores the complexities of practice in balancing the right to autonomy with issues of risk and protection. I developed and now co-lead the Best Interest Assessor module and am currently developing new modules that will reflect the proposed changes within the Liberty Protection Safeguards.  My role in the department includes teaching across all the social work programmes, BA and the MSW, where I am currently the year one lead. My doctoral thesis is an ethnographic study exploring social workers' experiences of working with adults who self-neglect. My research findings have been presented at conferences and workshops and actively inform my teaching and the development of professional practice.

Academic responsibilities

Course Leader of Post Qualifying Programmes & Senior Lecturer.

Qualifications

  • 1996 - Diploma in Social Work– Kingston University
  • 1996 - Diploma in Higher Education - Kingston University
  • 2006 - MA in Professional Education & Training in Human Services - Kingston University
  • 2007 - Practice Teaching Award - Kingston University
  • 2008 - Advanced Social Work Post Qualifying Award - Kingston University
  • 2015 - Best Interest Assessor Qualification - Bournemouth University
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy 2018
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy 2021

Teaching and learning

My professional values and commitment to anti-discriminatory practice and social justice are passions I bring to my role as an educator. Providing an inclusive learning environment where students feel valued, respected and academically stimulated motivates my approach. I am interested in pedagogical approaches that draw on performance, film, and alternative modes of creative spaces for experiential learning to foster spontaneity, break down barriers, and provide an inclusive and more profound meaning to learning. The videos of my work illustrate the range of events I have been involved with that promotes student and community engagement. My years in social work practice has also cemented my passion and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary teaching and learning, evidenced in the projects, events and new modules I have described that provide rich opportunities to work across disciplinary boundaries. My work as P.Q. programme and module lead, particularly in my work in delivering Best Interest Assessors and Safeguarding Adults at Risk modules have made positive contributions to professional subject networks. My areas of interest and expertise and topics I teach are Care Act 2014, safeguarding adults, working with older people and dementia. My expertise is working with people who self-neglect and I am able to draw on my doctoral research on this topic to enhance my teaching.

Undergraduate courses taught

Postgraduate courses taught

Research

My research interests include safeguarding adults, mental capacity and how we support people accessing adult community services. I am in the final stages of completing my doctoral thesis, an ethnographic study exploring social workers' experiences of working with self-neglect. I am interested in how social workers experience and understand self-neglect and what support they may need in this area of practice. I am also interested in relationship-based practice and was involved in a study that explored how social workers construct their relationships with the people they work with. I have been the project lead in developing a range of learning materials and films which have been co-developed with people who have accessed services in mental health, substance misuse, children and families and adults' services. These films are used in the education of social workers as they provide an authentic lens into the experiences of people who access services.

Current research projects

As a module led for our Best Interest Assessor Module (BIA), I have a specialist interest in this area and the proposed changes to the BIA role and the introduction of the Liberty Protection Safeguards. I am a co-applicant on a research study exploring the early implementation of the change from the BIA role to the Approved Mental Capacity Professional Role. We delivered a successful online seminar on our early findings in February 2022; see the video section below to view this.

I am also a co-applicant on an NIHR study with Kings College London starting in August 2022, exploring the role of decluttering services with people who hoard. We will be exploring the activity of professional decluttering services for people with hoarding behaviours, investigating contacts with councils, how help is organised, and what happens. We shall then be able to provide new information for councils, practitioners, voluntary groups, and those supporting people using or thinking about decluttering services, including people themselves and family members.

I am also a part of the university's Inclusive Health and Implementation (IHI) Research group led by Dr Kirstie Coxon. This research group is part of the Centre for Applied Health and Social Care Research (CAHSCR), whose aim is to work inter-professionally to improve health and social care outcomes for all. 

Business, knowledge transfer and international

Since joining K.U., I have used my professional contacts to build relationships with fellow academics and partner agencies, resulting in new markets for our P.Q. programme. We continue to deliver our Best Interest Assessor (BIA) module, a statutory legal role in continuous high demand. Due to our module's positive reputation, we have expanded our market and work with a wide range of agencies, including Kent County Council, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Brent, and our local partner agencies. As part of the module, we offer a CPD BIA legal refresher where new research, practice innovations and case law are shared with agencies to develop good practice and foster a community of practice. This sustains a positive knowledge exchange network and enables us to keep connected to our past students, many of whom have returned to K.U. to undertake further P.Q. modules. We have built on this interest with our current research project, exploring implementing the new Approved Mental Capacity Act Professional role; see videos for the link to the webinar on 23/02/2022 that presents our early findings.

I have also developed our 'Safeguarding Adults at Risk' P.Q. module. This is a professional issue that crosscuts all disciplines and has attracted a broad range of professionals, social workers, nurses, ambulance service, NHS safeguarding trust leads,  which has created a vibrant knowledge exchange and profitable collaborations. As Course Lead for P.Q. programmes, I am passionate about exploring new ways to work across disciplinary boundaries and am working with nursing to deliver a joint module on mentoring and coaching in November 2022. 

Professional practice, knowledge exchange and impact

My doctoral thesis explores social workers' experiences of working with people who self-neglect. This extended period of study has required me to engage with academic and professional literature and develop my scholarship in this area.   My findings contribute to pedagogical and practice l debates about working with self-neglect. I have used my knowledge to support further research projects and integrated this into my teaching.  I have been able to connect and share my findings with fellow academics and professionals nationally to develop professional practices, see below for a summary of presentations. The Teaching Partnership is a collaboration of partner agencies across southwest London where there is a reciprocal exchange of knowledge, skills and learning opportunities for both students and qualified staff in those agencies. I am the Academics in Practice workstream lead and was responsible for setting up the framework to connect academics with partner agencies to develop research ideas to exchange knowledge and improve professional practice. I am the university representative on Kingston's Alzheimer's Dementia Friendly Community Group (DFCG), which focuses on raising awareness and developing the skills and knowledge of students and the local community in supporting people living with dementia.  I have and continue to lead on a range of interprofessional dementia raising awareness events (see videos for links to these events). I have also developed a Special Interest Group (SIG), which increases students' knowledge and skills in supporting people living with dementia with regular events to promote awareness.

Conferences and seminars where I have presented my doctoral research

Conference Presentations

24th November 2021 – Online presentation to Sheffield Hallam University, School of Social Work, with post-qualifying social workers exploring the impact of self-neglect on practice and my doctoral research

15th May 2021  Teaching Partnership – Online presentation for Kingston Council and partner agencies on my doctoral research social workers experiences of self-neglect

12th October 2020 –Online presentation to Sheffield Hallam University, School of Social Work, with post-qualifying social workers exploring the impact of self-neglect on practice and my doctoral research

12th March 2020 Teaching Partnership - Merton Council Offices. presentation on Self-Neglect and strengths-based approaches to social workers and managers across Southwest London and Surrey.

12th October 2020 - Sheffield Hallam University, School of Social Work, presentation, and workshop with post-qualifying social workers exploring the impact of self-neglect on practice and my doctoral research

7th November 2019 , Royal Holloway University of London, Senate House, Working with Self-Neglect: Social Work Research and Practice Seminar – Keynote speaker -  Presentation on my doctoral research on social workers experiences of self-neglect

9-10 September 2019 - Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference (JSWEC) Manchester. Presentation on my doctoral research on social workers experiences of self-neglect.

12th November 2018 - Croydon Safeguarding Event – Presentation on Self-Neglect to Social Work and Social Care Professionals and staff, Croydon Town

9th October 2018 - Kings College London. Annual Conference from Making Research Count and the Social Care Workforce Research on Mental Health, Research findings informing practice and policy'. Speakers included Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults. I presented my research findings on self-neglect and discussed the impact on professional practice.

15th June 2018 - Action on Elder Abuse Annual Adult Safeguarding Conference – Presentation on my early finding of my doctoral research on social workers experiences of self-neglect in relation to safeguarding adults.

Professional and scholarly affiliations

  • British Association of Social Workers
  • Registered with Social Work England
  • University Representative on the Alzheimer's Society's, Kingston Dementia Friendly Community

Videos of my work