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 line of research, we study how professionals might work to 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. Healthcare and social services are organised much more locally. Social professionals need to be close to the people they are dealing with, while also cooperating properly with professionals from other fields. The personal strength of residents and social networks is central to this process.

This line of research looks at how social professionals can put these changes into practice and how they might devise an integrated and interprofessional working approach. What knowledge, skills and attitudes do they need? And what is required of organisations and policies in order to support them in this endeavour?



Personal experience with, for example, addiction and psychiatry can be of great value to social professionals. It can help them to empathise with their clients by enabling them to relate to their experience. Such experience is increasingly being recognised as a source of knowledge, alongside methodological and scientific/theoretical knowledge.

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

The demand for informal carers and volunteers in healthcare has been increasing in recent years. But how successful is this informal support when care is needed for an extended period of time? This line of research focuses on the informal support of people with cognitive disorders, such as dementia, acquired brain injuries or an intellectual disability.

We are mainly concerned with ascertaining the way in which professionals can support informal care in the best possible way. For this, quality collaboration between professionals, informal caregivers and clients is a necessity.



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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