From 1971 to 1987 I worked for the Child Poverty Action Group, the last 8 years as director. I joined the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough after 6 years as Professor and Head of Department of Applied Social Studies, Bradford University. Between 2005 and 2007 I spent some time at the University of Glasgow as the first Donald Dewar Visiting Professor of Social Justice. I retired in October 2010 and joined the House of Lords as a Labour peer in February 2011. In the Lords, I sat on the Joint Committee on Human Rights 2012-2015 and the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement 2017-2018. I am an officer on a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups including co-chair of the APPG on Poverty. I contribute to the Lords in particular in relation to poverty, social security, gender, citizenship and asylum and refugee issues,
I was elected hon president of CPAG in December 2010 and served as hon president of the Social Policy Association from 2016 to 2021. I am currently patron of a number of organisations including JustFair, the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and the Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum. I have sat on a number of independent commissions, the National Equality Panel and the Community Development Foundation and am currently a member of the board of the High Pay Centre and am Vice Chair of the Compass board. I gave the British Academy Annual Lecture in 2015 and in 2010 received a life-time achievement award from the Social Policy Association. In 2005 I was co-recipient of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher & Further Education awarded to the university for its contribution to social policy. Between 2020 and 2022 I sat on the Forde Inquiry established by the Labour Party.
There have been two main strands to my research: poverty (together with social security and the welfare state) and citizenship. In both cases this has embraced theoretical, conceptual, empirical and policy analysis and has involved a strong gender dimension. I am no longer research active but instead contribute actively to the work of the House of Lords and occasionally sit on research advisory committees.
My research on citizenship has focused on feminist perspectives as well as the citizenship of children and young people.
- Citizenship: Feminist Perspectives (translated into Chinese)
- Poverty, (translated into Polish, Macedonian and Japanese)
- Gendering Citizenship in Western Europe (with F. Williams and others)
- Understanding Theories and Concepts in Social Policy
- Why Money Matters, co-edited with J. Strelitz
- 'Investing in the citizens of the future: transformations in citizenship and the state under New Labour'
- 'Young people talk about citizenship'
- 'Inclusive citizenship: realising the potential'
- 'Why citizenship: where, when and how children?'
- 'A Nordic Nirvana? Gender, citizenship and social justice in the Nordic welfare states'
- 2nd edition of Poverty (2021) (translated into Korean and Japanese)
- 'Power not pity': Poverty and human rights, Ethics and Social Welfare, 7(20) 2013
- 'To count for nothing': poverty beyond the statistics, Journal of the British Academy, 3, 2015