Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Josephine Sirotkin

From violence to neglect: investigating the mistreatment of disabled people within health and social care facilities

Photo of Josephine Sirotkin

My research explores why some disabled people have been mistreated within health and social care. This mistreatment can range from violence to neglect to denying people choices over their own lives and much more. It raises important questions regarding the values placed upon different people and their lives in society. This research wishes to address these questions and gain an in-depth understanding into why mistreatment occurs and how we can work to prevent it.

Research aims and objectives:

  • To develop an understanding around the causal pathways that can lead to the mistreatment of disabled people within care facilities.
  • To investigate at what level (individual, institutional, and/or societal) the responsibility for this mistreatment lies.
  • To suggest avenues for developing strategies for the prevention of future mistreatment.

This research will involve a timely consideration of how austerity, and the changes being made to the health and social care system, could impact upon the people who are using these services. Declining government funding means that many disabled people are receiving minimum support and those who are providing this support are receiving minimum pay. This may make mistreatment more likely to occur.


I have been at the University of Leeds since I began my undergraduate degree (BA Sociology) in 2012. Here, my passion for disability studies developed and I began to think about disability and impairment sociologically.

Once I finished my undergraduate degree, in 2015, I took some time out from academia and became an employer of personal assistants on behalf of my mother and sister. This has allowed them to live independently, in their own home. I have continued to support them since.

I completed a Social Research MA (with Distinction) at the University of Leeds in 2017. My dissertation explored the intersections between citizenship and ableism, specifically looking at how the two may shape the conduct of young UK citizens.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

During my undergraduate degree, I researched the mistreatment of people with learning difficulties within the NHS. I found that there were many factors that could contribute to this mistreatment and that there was a lack of research into these. This, along with continuously seeing more cases of violence and neglect within health and social care, motivated me to continue to look into why this happens. I believe that more could be done to prevent these cases of violence and neglect from occurring. By increasing understanding into why this happens, I believe that academia can help to create avenues to help prevent future mistreatment. This motivated me to undertake PhD study in this area.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

As a sister, daughter, friend and ally to disabled people, I feel passionately about preventing the discrimination that disabled people can face in society.  

Through witnessing the health and social care system first hand, I know that there are both areas to be improved upon and people who are committed to good practice. I believe that everyone is entitled to good support, and I want the government to ensure that this is happening.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I would love to stay in academia, teaching and researching in sociology, once I have finished my PhD. I want to continue within the field of disability studies, researching dis/ableism in its various forms.

© Copyright Leeds 2018