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New research to improve social support for people with brain injuries

Published: 11 March 2022

A new research programme funded by NIHR and led by the University of Essex will help improve social workers’ knowledge of acquired brain injuries (ABI) so they can understand the safeguarding needs of people with brain injuries and their families. 

The Heads Together programme aims to address the knowledge gap in social work education around brain injuries. Without the right support, the consequences of brain injury can lead to serious problems including drug addiction, crime, homelessness or suicide. The project will help professionals support brain injury survivors more effectively. 

The funding from the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme will allow the researchers to develop educational resources for social workers, service users and their families, as well as working with brain injury survivors, social workers and their managers to understand what needs to change. 

Professor Andrew Bateman from Essex’s School of Health and Social Care is leading the project. He is also Chair of the UK Acquired Brain Injury Forum (UKABIF) who will be working alongside the Brain Injury Social Work Group and the International Network for Social Workers in Acquired Brain Injury as part of the research. 

Professor Bateman said: “The consequences of brain injury can be devastating for an individual and their family and friends. People have to struggle with changes in their emotions, thinking skills and behaviours that are sometimes not easy to understand.”

“The NIHR support for work in this sector will mean that we can make a great difference to the lives of people affected by brain injury, through improving awareness and training of social workers. The timing of this research is especially important after some recent tragic serious case reviews that have pointed at the need for this research and training.”

Chloe Hayward, Executive Director at UKABIF, said: “We know that some difficulties following ABI can be invisible. To meet the needs of people with ABI, social workers need specific knowledge and skills to recognise and understand these underlying difficulties. With this knowledge, social workers can ensure appropriate social care is provided, and they can use skills to identify and work around their clients’ ABI challenges.

“We need a better understanding of social workers’ current ABI knowledge. This research opportunity will address this along with looking at what are the barriers to acting on this knowledge, how can organisations and managers better support social workers and what kind of training is needed.”

Read more about this research on the University of Essex website

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