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Spotlight on social care and social work research


The needs and demands of adult social care and social work are rising and research is helping to inform practice, so people are provided with better and more effective services in the future.

Today we are launching a campaign to raise awareness of why social care research, just like healthcare research, is so important.

Adult social care includes the provision of social work, occupational therapy and social care assessments. This facilitates the commissioning of personal, emotional and practical care and support that people and their carers may need due to ageing, illness, or disability. It can be provided in a number of places, for example in people’s homes, nursing homes, community day centres, prisons and in the wider community.

Social care research covers many areas, for example looking at whether providing adaptations to bathing facilities in people’s homes can improve quality of life and relieve pressure on other services, or studying how hearing dogs can affect people’s wellbeing and mental health.

Social work is a specialism within social care, undertaken by qualified and registered professionals. Social workers help people find solutions to social and practical problems, access care and support, be safe from harm or neglect, exercise their human rights and get on with the lives they want to lead as much as possible.

We support social care and social work research and are looking to grow more in both areas.  We fund research and researchers, and many of our services support the design and delivery of social care research, such as ENRICH (a toolkit to enable research in care homes), through the Research Design Service and the Study Support Service.

Just last week we announced £20 million funding for social care research over the next five years through the NIHR School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR), including a £1.8 million investment for training researchers through the new NIHR Academy.

Today the Top 10 priorities for Adult Social Work research have been published by the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership*. The priorities were identified using the JLA approach, which has been used to identify research priorities in more than 70 topic areas to date.

The Top 10 most important future research questions as agreed by people who use adult social work services, their carers and the people who provide these services include topics such as:

  • how availability of funding is impacting adult social workers’ practice and decisions made;
  • how to improve communication between adult social workers and people using services;
  • how eligibility criteria are applied to people with different types of needs; and
  • whether partnership working between adult social workers and other health and social care professionals result in better outcomes for people using services.

Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults in England explained:

"Developed using the James Lind Alliance's tried and tested methods, this is the first time anywhere in the world that this kind of research prioritisation has happened for adult social work and the first time the JLA approach has been used in a non-health related area."

Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage said:

“Research and evidence are vital tools within our health and care system to challenge ingrained thinking and assumptions, helping to improve services and people’s experiences of care.

“The National Institute for Health Research’s new focus on social care research is vital to ensure a sustainable, future-proofed social care system and I’m delighted we are supporting this research with a £20 million investment.”

Over the next few days we’ll be highlighting some of the key areas for social care and social work research and how we can help you to deliver this research.

Follow us on facebook or twitter, or check out our social care campaign page today.


* About James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funds the infrastructure of the James Lind Alliance (JLA) to oversee the processes for Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs). PSPs aim to help patients or service users, carers and professionals work together to agree which are the most important evidence uncertainties affecting their particular interest, in order to influence the prioritisation of future research in that area. While the James Lind Alliance (JLA) facilitates these partnerships, the funding and organising is done by the PSP itself.