School of Sociology and Social Policy

Research Projects

A six month secondment at the Scottish Parliament (2 Nov 2020 - 30 Apr 2021)

Dr Simon Roberts has been appointed an Academic Fellow at the Scottish Parliament to advise the Parliament and its members (MSPs) on the impact of Brexit on Scottish Social Security.

New powers transferred to the Scottish Parliament by The Scotland Act (2016) allow Scottish Ministers to develop new social security policies within a framework provided by The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 which devolves eleven existing benefits to Scotland.

The aim of the Academic Fellowship is to carry out research to examine how these benefits will be treated in the Withdrawal Agreement as the EU Social Security Coordinating Regulations evolve; within any new multilateral agreement between the UK and EU; or, if there is no agreement, by unilateral arrangements by the EU and UK, including ‘retained legislation’, and bilateral agreements between the UK and individual EU member countries. Outputs will include written and oral briefings for MSPs and presentations to the Scottish Parliament.

Community-based sustainable rural development: The Case of Shumba Chieftaincy Modernisation Initiative (Nov 2020 - Feb 2021)

This project is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham, National Age Network of Zimbabwe (NANZ), The Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), and Chief Shumba on the modernization agenda for the Shumba Chieftaincy, into a vibrant community-driven rural development programme.

With a recent change in leadership in the Shumba Chieftainship in Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe, the PI has been approached with an opportunity to establish a platform for evidence-based policy guidance and community engagement to meet the multiple and critical community challenges. These include threats to health and safety (exacerbated by COVID-19), food and nutrition insecurity (amplified by climate change), life and livelihoods decline (due to prolonged political, macro and micro economic poor performance), moral degradation and family disintegration (a result of rural to urban/regional/international migration).

The aim of this first stage of the project is to:

  • carry out a demographic study (including needs assessment analysis and skills inventory)
  • build a statistical database of the population that falls under the Shumba Chieftainship

The deliverable will be a demographic database that is searchable and updateable to guide efforts to improve decisions, initiate appropriate innovative developmental programmes and build sustainable collaborations and partnerships. This is the first step in the modernisation of the Shumba Chieftaincy under the planned five modernisation phases; namely the modernisation of: the agriculture system (Zunde Ramambo); health and education systems; traditional court system; spirituality and belief systems and spearheading of innovative income generating projects.

Covid-19 risk and response: Impacts and mitigations for modern slavery victims and survivors (24 Jul 2020 - 23 Nov 2021)

Project summary

As the UN explained, Covid-19 “is likely to increase the scourge of modern-day slavery.” Victims and survivors of modern slavery are at greater risk of ongoing exploitation and re-exploitation. Traffickers will increase recruitment and seek to maintain revenue during economic crisis. Victim identification has become even more challenging as States shift protection resources towards combatting the pandemic.

This project responds to many warnings by the policy community that, as the UN noted on May 5, “inaction could lead to a sharp rise in the number of people being pushed into slavery” because of Covid-19. The complexity of the risk environment may impede mitigation unless risks can be assessed in an efficient way. We therefore answer the question: what are the accrued risks and mitigating responses of Covid-19 for victims and survivors of modern slavery? To answer this key question, we answer the sub-questions: What are the causal pathways throughout which mitigations are expected to work? Do these efforts reflect survivors’ experiences?

Derived from disaster response techniques and public health frameworks, our participatory risk assessment includes interview, survey and web-monitoring data. Our multi-method design includes qualitative and quantitative surveys, public information monitoring, evidence reviews, and risk analysis. We adopt a multi-level approach to consider risk and assess against a framework adapted from our social determinants model. As we assess risk, we analyse responses and recommend mitigations.

Combating human trafficking: The role of NGOs in the fight against human trafficking in Zimbabwe (1 November 2019- 30 April 2021)

Zimbabwe is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons, yet the prevalence of different forms of human trafficking in the country is unknown and the conviction rates and victim identification patterns remain a cause for concern. Also, Zimbabwe's current Trafficking in Persons law is inconsistent with international laws as it defines trafficking in persons as a movement based crime and does not adequately define 'exploitation'. This not only leaves many victims of trafficking without legal protection but has huge implications on how human trafficking is understood and anti-trafficking initiatives are undertaken.

This ESRC-GCRF funded project, aims to map the human trafficking activity in Zimbabwe through secondary analysis of NGO data and raise awareness of the trends, prevalence of different forms of human trafficking and the impact on gender and age. Through interdisciplinary and participatory research with one Zimbabwean university and 4 local and international NGOs involved with anti-human trafficking work in Zimbabwe, this project fills a major evidence gap about the role played by NGOs in the fight against human trafficking.

Visit the project website

Internally displaced persons and COVID-19: Leveraging local low cost COVID-19 solutions in informal settlements in Zimbabwe (24 August 2020 – 14 February 2022)

This project focuses on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) residing in informal settlements in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a Southern African country which is among the latest countries in the African region to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing daily spikes in COVID-19 cases, and is on a drive to put measures in place to combat the threat of rising numbers including public health education regarding practising hygiene, isolation, quarantine, social distancing and the wearing of protective clothing such as masks in public spaces. IDPs are however an economically disadvantaged and secluded population, with limited access to the critical public health information and resources to comply with the recommended COVID-19 hygiene standards in overcrowded conditions. Yet their precarious situation pauses a serious risk both to their population, and the mainstream population given the nature of the pandemic.

Bringing together an interdisciplinary team of two UK universities, three Zimbabwe universities and a local NGO, this 18-month impact-oriented project aims to complement the government’s current response to the pandemic by adapting locally developed low cost COVID-19 solutions to fit IDPs’ needs.

Disabled Refugee students Included and Visible in Education (DRIVE): Challenges and opportunities in three African countries (March 2020 - March 2022)

Refugees flee crisis situations, but then experience new crises in settlement contexts. This affects access to and success in, education. Refugee populations include disabled people who have been 'invisible' in policy and service provision. Girls are the most vulnerable in this group. Little is known about the challenges and opportunities disabled refugee students face to be included in education, especially in the Global South, which hosts most of the world's refugees.

This interdisciplinary project aims to understand the educational inclusion and exclusion of disabled refugee students, particularly girls, in South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe - countries with different approaches to settlement. Using quantitative and qualitative methods in a multiple case study, we will deliver evidence that will impact policy and practice, such that these students become visible and included in education. This will benefit individuals, families and societies and contribute to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

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