Dr Lee Humber


PhD Title: Theorising work: Employment and the history of people with learning disabilities
The idea that paid employment for people with learning disabilities was central to social inclusion was popularised between 1997 and 2010 and found its clearest expression in the policy document Valuing Employment Now (2009). My thesis tests the validity of this idea. The general research question addressed is: Is employment a vehicle for social inclusion? It is explored using a qualitative, multi-method approach. Specifically, the thesis analyses relationships between agency and structure in the learning disabilities-employment context. It draws on concepts drawn from sociological theory and in particular on the theory of 'structuration' (Giddens, 1990). The thesis found that policy and practice over time have maintained stigmatised identity 'types' (Giddens, 1990) which constrain the extent to which employment is able to support social inclusion in meaningful ways.


  • Undergraduate: BSc Health Care Studies
  • Postgraduate: MSc Management in Health Care; MSc Nursing Studies (Leadership in Clinical Practice); MSc Dissertation; PgDip Community Nursing
  • Research students: PhD supervision (Learning Disabilities and Sexuality)

Research Interests

  • Overarching research interests: The roots and effects of stigma
  • Specific research projects (1): Investigating narratives of stigma: Journeys from poverty to mental and moral deficiency (1871-1911) Funding application submitted to New Investigator Awards funding stream, Wellcome Trust
  • Specific research projects (2): Investigating the student experience following the move from HE to FE of the Foundation Degree for Assistant Practitioners; Funding application submitted to Brookes’ Central Research Fund (Phase 2)
  • Specific research projects (3): A cross-cultural study of dementia (UK and Hong Kong) currently in development with Dr P Harper, Programme Lead, Hong Kong Programme

Selected Publications


  • The Political Economy of Stigma; Jointly written with colleagues at Ruskin College, Oxford, the book investigates the underlying causes and impact of stigma. (2014, publication details currently in negotiation with Pluto Press)
  • I want what you have: An oral history of the Camden Society; co-author and lead researcher of this history of one of the country’s leading learning disability support providers, funded and published by the Heritage Lottery Fund (2010)

Peer Reviewed Papers

  • Social inclusion through employment: The marketization of employment support for people with learning difficulties; Disability and Society (Jan-Feb, 2014)
  • Ecology and Mental Health; published report for MENCAP (2013)
  • Researching employment for people with learning difficulties: Methodologies and conclusions; Research Unpacked Journal, Manchester University (2012)
  • Problems with the employment of people with learning difficulties; InTouch; Enewsletter for the Centre for Learning Disability Studies, University of Hertfordshire (2012)

Other Papers

  • Excluded-inclusion: The potential and pit-falls of inclusion through employment for people with intellectual disabilities; International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Vienna Conference (2014, July)
  • Communities of stigma? Exploring the oral histories of communities of people with intellectual disability and mental health problems; Oral History Conference, Manchester (2014, July)
  • From deficiency to difficulty: Three historical phases of constructing learning disability since 1913; History of Medicine Seminars; Centre for Health, Medicine and Society; Oxford Brookes University (2012)
  • Employment and social inclusion: How employment has informed the social construction of people with learning difficulties since World War Two; Learning Disability Nursing BSc course, University of Hertfordshire (2012)
  • Employment and social inclusion: How employment has informed the social construction of people with learning difficulties since World War Two; Centre for Medical History Seminar Series 2012/13, University of Exeter (2012)
  • The Changing Nature of Service Provision for People with Learning Disabilities; International Conference of Disability Studies, Lancaster University (2010)
Lee Humber


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