Everyone has the right to develop themselves and to fully participate in society. This also applies to people with a functional disability. The research group studies how to give shape and meaning to the professional support regarding quality of life and social inclusion in the best possible way.

Lines of research within the research group

In this research programme, we study how social workers can improve social inclusion. To this end, we look at how the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) can be translated into professional practice.

Much has changed in recent years regarding the social domain. Social services are organised much more locally. Supporting the strengths of citizens, social networks and communities is central to this process. Social professionals need to be close to the people they are working with. Working in a comprehensive way means that all the needs of service users are addressed in an integrated way. If a variety of services is needed, this requires a good cooperation with professionals from other fields.

This research programme looks at how social professionals can work in a comprehensive, integrated way in the local community. What knowledge, skills and attitudes do they need? And what is required of organisations and policies in order to support this line of working?

Personal experiences with, for example, addiction, psychiatry, trauma, intellectual disability and poverty can be of great value to social professionals. It can help them to build a relationship with their clients and to support them to use their experiences as a strength. These experiences is increasingly being recognised as a source of knowledge, alongside methodological and scientific/theoretical knowledge.

In this research programme, we study how this experiential knowledge can be developed and utilised by students, lecturers and professionals in the best possible way.

Over the past decade, the demand for informal carers and volunteers has increased. This research programme focuses on the informal support of people with cognitive disorders, such as dementia, acquired brain injury or an intellectual disability. We study how professionals can support informal care in the best possible way. For this, a good collaboration between professionals, family carers, volunteers and people with a disability is essential.




The research group is closely linked to social work education. Our work contributes to the development of the bachelor programme in Social Work and the master programme in Community Development. Lecturer-researchers are also involved in learning workplaces, study groups and curricula related to mental healthcare, care for people with mental disabilities, and informal care.

Jean Pierre Wilken speaks during his special public lecture Jean Pierre Wilken

“Social workers are tasked with helping to enable people make their own choices and to create opportunities for them to develop competencies, to feel they are of value and to ensure connection with others.”

Prof. Jean Pierre Wilken, public lecture (2018)


The research group works together with dozens of organisations in the social and care sectors, both regionally, nationally and internationally. Regionally, the group is affiliated with the Kennisplatform Utrecht Sociaal (kUS). Nationally, it is part of the Onderzoekersplatform Disability Studies, Inclusie and Belonging. Internationally, it is affiliated with the CARPE Network, PowerUs and the European Social Work Research Association.

Kennisplatform Utrecht Sociaal
Platform Ervaringsdeskundigheid
European Social Work Research Association

Our professors and researchers

Jean Pierre Wilken | Professor | Participation, Care and Support

Jean-Pierre Wilken

Professor Participation, Care and Support Show profile
Joep Binkhorst | Researcher | Organising Decent Work / Participation, Care and Support

Joep Binkhorst

Researcher Decent Work, Participation, Care and Support Show profile
Mariët Brandts | Researcher | Participation, Care and Support

Mariët Brandts

Researcher Participation, Care and Support Show profile
Mirjam Gademan | Lecturer, Supervision Expert, Researcher | Participation, Care and Support

Mirjam Gademan

Researcher Participation, Care and Support Show profile

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