Dr Rebecca Carter Dillon

Dr Rebecca Carter Dillon

Senior Research Fellow

Faculty of Health

Dr Rebecca Carter Dillon can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Child poverty and social inequalities
  • Social policy in education
  • Equal opportunities in education
  • Diversity in education


Senior Research Fellow

Plymouth Health Determinants Research Collaboration, Faculty of Health


PhD Social Policy, University of Plymouth 2021

Thesis: An Intersectional Analytical Critique of the Troubled Families Programme in Cornwall.

PG Cert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE), University of Plymouth 2010

MA Applied Social Research, University of Manchester 2008
Thesis on the educational experiences and well-being of refugee and asylum seeker children in the UK.

MSc Poverty Reduction and Development Management, University of Birmingham 2001   
Thesis on education and health provision for Somali Pastoralists in NE Kenya.

BA (hons) English/ African Studies 2(i), University of Birmingham 1999

Professional membership

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy



Teaching interests

I was a Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and Education from 2007-2023 and taught in the areas of social policy, child poverty and social inequalities, child well-being in the developing world, and social and educational research, at undergraduate and postgraduate level. I have supervised 100+ undergraduate dissertations and postgraduate MA theses in education. 



Research interests

I am currently working as a Senior Research Fellow within the Faculty of Health's Community and Primary Care Research Group https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/primarycare and as a Researcher in Residence (RiR) on the Plymouth Health Determinants Research Collaboration https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/research/primarycare/public-health/plymouth-health-determinants-research-collaboration
The RiR model involves embedding researchers into host organisations (in this case Plymouth City Council's Public Health Team and the Plymouth Octopus Project https://www.plymouthoctopus.org/ - a support organisation for the VCSE sector in Plymouth) and aims to support the development of a participatory research culture in order to provide evidence for service innovations and improvements, prioritising the needs and perspectives of service users.

Main research interests: Health and social inequalities and poverty, in the UK and beyond.  
Participatory research that prioritises the perspectives and experiences of people who often go unheard.
Disempowering and impoverishing structures, processes and attitudes that impact on communities' abilities to achieve sustainable positive outcomes.

I have worked in community development in London and Manchester, including on projects to support looked after and refugee children, and I am particularly interested in how statutory agencies and NGOs engage with and address the needs of disadvantaged communities. I have lived and worked in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa and am also interested in global issues of child welfare, particularly in the role of community development initiatives in improving outcomes. I have accompanied three student study trips to the Gambia, looking at education and community development in that context.

My PhD research looked at the Troubled Families agenda in Cornwall, known locally as the Together for Families Programme. This study focused on seeking to understand the lives of 'troubled' families experiencing material deprivation and marginalisation in Cornwall. I critiqued the impact that statutory and non-statutory family support agencies had in their efforts to improve outcomes for 'troubled' families, and as such it was a study of the current Government's social policy agenda in the context of austerity and public sector cuts.  My PhD research covered themes around the measurement and experience of poverty and inequality, power and powerlessness, structural discrimination, social justice, shame, stigma and labelling.

Current and recent funded research projects:

2022-24: Project Lead on ‘Is Food all we Need? Assessing the Impact of Food-Focused Initiatives in Plymouth’ research study- partnership with Plymouth City Council (PCC) and VCSE organisations, supporting VCSE organisations to conduct research with their service users.

2022-23: Project lead on ‘Supporting Transition to School for vulnerable children’ research study- partnership with PCC and Action for Children

2020-22: UoP Knowledge Exchange project looking at impact of Plymouth Dads Project for male carers with focus on reducing isolation and supporting positive parenting practices- partnership with Dangerous Dads

2014-2021: PhD research on intersectional challenges experienced by ‘troubled’ families in Cornwall

2011-2013: Research study in collaboration with Barnardos looking at learning and personal support needs of Plymouth children with a parent in prison.

Grants & contracts

2022: Plymouth City Council/ University of Plymouth HDRC project: £9400

Research study looking at the impact of transition to school activities for children from materially deprived communities in Plymouth.

2022: Plymouth City Council/ University of Plymouth HDRC project: £9750

Research study 'Is Food All We Need?'- looking at the impact of food-focused initiatives in Plymouth, supporting VCSE organisations to conduct research with their service users, taking an appreciative inquiry approach.

2022: University of Plymouth Institute of Education Pump Priming Grant: £4000.  

Project Title: Support needs of refugee Families in the South West Project.

 2021: University of Plymouth Knowledge Exchange Grant, plus Big Lottery funding: £4000. 

Project Title: Dangerous Dads: Plymouth Dads Research Project.  

Research study looking at the impact of the Plymouth Dads Project on male carers and their children.

University of Plymouth and Cornwall Council PhD Studentship 2014-2017: £50000.  

Project Title: An Intersectional Analytical Critique of the Troubled Families Programme in Cornwall. 

University of Plymouth Teaching Fellowship Award Scheme 2012: £7000.  

Project Title: Modelling Participatory Research with Vulnerable Children and Young People: Children with a Parent in Prison.

University of Plymouth Community Research Award 2011: £10000.  

Project Title: Support Provision in Schools in Plymouth for Children with a Father in Prison.




Morgan, J., Leeson, C. and Carter Dillon, R. (2013) How can schools support children with a parent in prison? Pastoral Care in Education. Vol 31, No 3, 199-210. 

Morgan, J., Leeson, C., Carter Dillon, R., Wirgman, A.L., and Needham, M. (2013) ‘A Hidden Group of Children’: Support in Schools for Children who Experience Parental Imprisonment. Children and Society.  DOI:10.1111/chso.12012


Carter Dillon, R. (2013) 'A critique of euro-centric perspectives on early childhood education and care in the Gambia' in Georgeson, J. and Payler, J. (Eds) International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Care. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Carter Dillon, R. and Huggins, V. (2010) 'Children’s well-being in the developing world: issues of family, economics, health and education' in C. Leeson and R Parker-Rees (Eds) Early Childhood Studies. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Boyask, R., Carter, R., Waite, S, Lawson, H. (2009) 'Concepts and patterns of diversity: Mapping efforts to address learning and diversity in English schools' in K. Quinlivan, R, Boyask and B. Kaur (Eds), Educational Enactments in a Globalised World: Intercultural Conversations, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Conference Papers

Conference Paper at BSA Annual Conference 2019: Challenging Social Hierarchies and Inequalities. Title: Oxymoronic Social Policy- Managing the ‘Troubled’ Family