A a sociologist with expertise in housing, she served as Professor of Social Policy and an Associate Dean in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Northumbria prior to her election, and had previously been Dean of Social and Labour studies at Ruskin College, Oxford and head of policy at the Local Government Information Unit. Blackman-Woods had previously been Chair of the City of Durham Constituency Labour Party and before that in Newcastle upon Tyne East and Wallsend. She has also served as a Councillor on Oxford and Newcastle City Councils.
Elected with a majority of 3,274, Roberta Blackman-Woods made her maiden speech to the House of Commons on 24 May 2005, in which she referred to the work of her predecessor Gerry Steinberg, as well as referring at length to the importance to Durham of the Durham Cathedral, University of Durham and the historic legacy of mining within the area. She also quoted Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island: "Why, it's wonderful - a perfect little city... If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful."
Blackman-Woods is a member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and was a member of the Education and Skills Select Committee for a year from 2005. In 2006 she became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Hilary Armstrong. This post lasted until Hilary Armstrong was returned to the backbenches when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, but she was then appointed PPS to the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, in 2007.
In 2005, she became Chair of the All Party Afghanistan Group and in 2007 she also became Chair of the All Party Balanced and Sustainable Communities Group.