Social care: investing in better research


Social care research - Martin Knapp

Social care: investing in better research

As the NIHR announces new funding for social care research, Professor Martin Knapp explores how research can rise to the challenge of shaping social care services for the future.

Most people reading this will know someone who uses adult social care services. You may actually be that ‘someone’. Or you may be a carer. Many of the rest of you - if survey findings are accurate – will be seriously underestimating the likelihood that you will have social care needs yourself at some point.

Adult social care is the provision of personal and practical care and support that people may need due to ageing, illness, or disability, provided in a number of settings ranging from help in their own homes, to nursing homes, or in community settings such as day centres. Support is also provided to family and other carers. The likelihood that you might need these services is growing over time.

If only out of self-interest, therefore – although I hope that wouldn’t be the sole motivation – we will all want an adult social care system that is fit for purpose.

The system should be good at identifying social care needs in timely fashion, and responding to changes over time, and make sure it understands the preferences of individuals about how their needs are met and the personal strengths they bring to the care setting. It should recognise and support family and other unpaid carers. It should recognise people as individuals, engaging with them with respect and dignity. It should recruit, train and retain a skilled workforce. It should support that workforce with appropriate technology and other resources. It should recognise the enormous contributions that communities do and can make.

A high-performing social care system goes further. It ensures that every individual with social care needs - whatever their financial or family circumstances – has access to good quality support, and has a choice about what that support will be. A good social care system will also be funded fairly, and in a way that is sustainable over the long term.

And, importantly, it will be built on solid research evidence. That is why last week’s announcement by NIHR that it will fund a third phase of the School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR) is so welcome. Just under £20 million has been committed over 5 years to continue the work of the School. This includes £1.8 million specifically targeted on building research capacity: this is the exciting new NIHR Social Care Incubator.

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Top ten priorities for social work research

The top ten priorities for Adult Social Work research have been published by the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership (JLA PSP).

The JLA approach has been used to identify research priorities in more than 70 topic areas to date, but this is the first time is has been applied in a non-health area.

This PSP focused on what social workers do to help adults who have care and support needs or are in contact with social workers for other reasons. It involved input from more than 1150 people, including people who use social work services, carers and practitioners.

Read the Top 10 Priorities on the JLA website

Read the full report on the website

The importance of research and evidence to social care

Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults, Department of Health and Social Care, explains why research and evidence is so important to inform and improve social work practice.

Research in care homes

Research Ready Hospices

The ENRICH programme aims to bring together care homes, residents and researchers to support the delivery of research, to increase research taking place in care homes, provide better support for that research and to improve the quality of life and quality of care for all care home residents.

Visit the ENRICH site

NIHR School for Social Care Research

The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) aims to increase the evidence-base for adult social care practice. The School brings together leading academic centres in England demonstrating excellence in social care research, and complements NIHR funding streams.

Every year, more than half a million people help the NHS to improve healthcare and develop life-saving treatments by taking part in health research.

What is the NIHR doing to help?

  • 20m extra funding
  • Increased researcher capacity
  • Increased support for researchers