Jo Dixon

MA Social Policy (York)

  • Research Fellow

Visit Jo Dixon's profile on the York Research Database to see a full list of publications and browse her research related activities.


 Social Work Research Interests

  • Outcomes for children and adolescents in and on the edges of care
  • Leaving care policy and practice
  • Innovative approaches to working with vulnerable young people
  • Use of mixed methods to carry out research with vulnerable young people and families including the use of RCTs in social care research and peer research methodology

Jo Dixon has carried out research on children and families at the University of Manchester and at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, University of London. Since coming to York in 2000 to join the Social Work Research and Development Unit, and later SPRU, she has specialised in research on young people in and leaving care. This includes government funded research on the experiences and outcomes for young people leaving care in Scotland and in England and research on innovative approaches to supporting young people in contact with children’s social care including studies of preventative services for young people on the edge of care (using residential respite care); the implementation of Special Guardianship Orders; and the national evaluation of Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care.  


During 2010-2014, Jo was seconded to the young people’s charity Catch22 National Care Advisory Service, as research manager where she coordinated Catch 22’s peer research studies.  This included leading a study of Corporate Parenting for young people in and from care and involved delivering research training and support to over 40 care experienced young people to carry out research interviews, analysis and dissemination.


Jo has experience of using qualitative and quantitative research methods, including RCTs and peer research approaches. She is committed to strengthening the links between research and practice by working directly with young people and practitioners and has been involved in setting up training schemes for young people leaving care.  


External work includes:

  • Co-leading the evaluation of the New Belongings Project (Funded by the DfE). This involves an evaluation of a new approach to improving support and outcomes for care leavers across 27 local authorities
  • Research consultant on The Siblings Together Study with the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford. The study is evaluating a befriending project to support sibling relationships between young people in care
  • Research consultant with University of Oxford’s Department of Education on a Nuffield funded scoping study of early year’s education for children in care, led by University of Oxford and the Family and Childcare Trust

Social Work Advisory Positions

  • Editorial Board - Journal of Child and Family Social Work
  • Advisory Group Member - The Princes Trust & NCB Research Centre - Action Research: From Care to Independence
  • Steering Group Member - Children's Homes Project, Catch22 / NCAS. Funded by Department for Education
  • Member, International Centre for Mental Health Social Research

Current Research

Jo is currently PI and co-PI on three research studies:

The Step Change Evaluation:  (Funded by Action for Children). This is a joint study between the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) and Department of Social Policy and Social Work (SPSW) being co-led by Dr Sarah Blower and Jo Dixon.   The evaluation will explore the implementation and impact of social care interventions for young people in and on the edge of care across three London Boroughs. The interventions include three evidence based practice (EBP) models:

  • Multisystemic Therapy (MST) and Functional Family Therapy (FFT) for vulnerable adolescents and families who are at risk of family breakdown.
  • Treatment Foster Care (TFCO) offering time limited specialist foster care support for young people in and on the edge of care.   

The evaluation involves three work streams, a process component to understand how the three EBPs are implemented and operationalised and how they fit together across the three participating local authorities; an outcomes analysis to understand who the EBPs are working with and the early progress of those young people and families receiving the intervention; and an economic component to explore the cost effectiveness of the programmes.  (Professors Nina Biehal and Tracey Bywater are academic consultants on this evaluation.)  May 2015 – March 2016.


The Right Home Evaluation (funded by Calderdale Council) is being carried out by Jo Dixon, Jenny Lee and Jade Ward (SPSW). This 10 month study will evaluate the implementation and outcomes of a new accommodation and support project for young people in and at risk of entering care in Calderdale.  The project involves the expansion of accommodation options for vulnerable young people on the edges of care. It will sit alongside the current range of accommodation options and family support to include early intervention options using boarding school places and respite stays in a residential unit and supported options for older adolescents including intensive support and tapered support through extended foyers.  The evaluation aims to understand more about the edge of care group and how these different options might impact on the young people and families involved in the project.   June 2015 – March 2015.


The House Project (Funded by Stoke-on-Trent Council) is being carried out by researchers at the Department of Social Policy and Social work. The transition from care to independent living for young people leaving foster and residential care is known to be difficult.  Many care leavers take on the responsibilities of independent living aged 16 -21, much younger in comparison to young people in general who remain at home until their late twenties.  Those more vulnerable care leavers embark upon this transition with the legacy of difficulties and estrangement from family, ill prepared for the challenges of managing a home, budgeting and coping with the sense of isolation that can come with living alone and remote from social and family networks. The House Project is an innovative approach to addressing these issues.  It will prepare, upskill and support a group of 10 care leavers to increase their chance of positive housing outcomes post care. This involves setting up the first UK housing co-operative for care leavers using housing stock from Stoke Council.  Young people involved in running the co-operative will receive support with independent living skills and their education, employment and training opportunities.  The evaluation involves understanding how the co-operative works in practice and will focus on the experiences and outcomes for young people participating in the project. It is led by Jo Dixon and supported by Jenny Lee and Jade Ward.  Professor. Mike Stein is academic consultant.  June 2015 – March 2016.


Each of the above projects will be carried out using qualitative and quantitative research methods and will incorporate an economic component as well as a participatory approach, involving care experienced young people as a research advisory group to contribute to the design of interview schedules and interpretation and dissemination of findings.

Jo Dixon

Contact details

Jo Dixon
Research Fellow
Social Policy and Social Work
Room: A/C/018

Tel: +44 (0) 1904 321275