Published: 14 September 2021
Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care and Community Wellbeing at Lincolnshire County Council and former president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), writes about how a new vision for housing and social care research can enable people to transform their care and health, and be more independent.
Not many would disagree that a house is more than the physical structure providing a roof over one’s head. Recent national lockdowns have highlighted how important our houses ('a home') are to our wellbeing, and it is not surprising that the link between housing and physical and mental health is well documented. Housing is a critical component in better meeting the needs of individuals into the future; good housing can support and facilitate models of social care, in the broadest sense, that maximise independence and prevent ill health.
Research in social care is growing, but research at the intersection of housing, social care and health is still lacking - both in terms of opportunities for researchers and outputs presenting evidence which is useful and accessible to different evidence users. This means policy makers or commissioners – like myself – making decisions about investment in current and future social care and housing in our local communities are lacking vital information to help drive the best outcomes.
A recent EPSRC and NIHR workshop highlighted that whilst there are a number of great initiatives trying to build the evidence base in this area, a more systemic effort is needed to better meet the needs of people and communities and make best use of the scarce public pound.
People are key
Listening to people with lived experience when designing and implementing research is fundamental to ensure that we are generating evidence which is meaningful to those that matter most. Beyond that, as with all good research, there is a need to listen to what matters to diverse groups. Different communities conceive of ‘home’ differently, and understanding this is crucial to developing policies and services which are appropriate to the people they are developed for.
Taking a multi-disciplinary approach
Engaging stakeholders such as Local Authority teams with housing and social care responsibility, housing providers, the NHS and social care providers, will ensure that research is designed so that outputs have applicability to real-world problems. While it is important to include social care and health professionals and researchers in funding decisions and research design, there are other organisations which need to be involved through co-production.
Bringing together researchers from multiple disciplines is vital given the different dimensions at play when thinking of how to optimise care and health outcomes through housing. Coordination and collaboration between people undertaking housing and social care research, regardless of institution or discipline, is essential for change. We need to generate opportunities for collaboration between separate specialties, allowing social care researchers to combine their knowledge with the technical competence of engineers and designers.
The practical application of technological innovation
Technological innovations (both low and high-tech) in the home environment have enormous potential to transform care and health outcomes. However, these can present ethical and logistical challenges – technology must be integrated into people’s lives to support independence in their homes and communities. Technology should not be the end, but a means to better support people to live the lives they choose; user-friendliness should be at the forefront of all design choices.
Addressing these challenges – the EPSRC-NIHR funding call
EPSRC and NIHR have recently launched a £10m funding call ‘Transforming care and health at home and enabling independence’, aimed at funding research that focuses on how people can be enabled to transform their care and health, and be more independent. The call will fund three types of grant and is strongly encouraging applicants to demonstrate co-creation with multiple stakeholders. Register for its webinar on Thursday,16 September from 10am-12pm.
Glen Garrod, Executive Director of Adult Care and Community Wellbeing at Lincolnshire County Council and former president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)
The funding call closes on 4pm on Thursday, 21 October 2021. EOIs are due on Thursday, 7 October.