The NIHR School for Social Care Research: providing evidence to help improve adult social care in England

The National Institute for Health Research (nihr.ac.uk) established the School for Social Care Research (SSCR) in 2009. The School's remit is to increase the quantity of relevant world class research to provide a stronger evidence base for improving practice in adult social care in England. We have a portfolio of around 40 research projects and published and commissioned reviews of research methods and scoping studies of aspects of social care. (The published reviews are freely available on our website.)

Commissioning this work fulfils part of our remit, but another key element is to work to feed the outputs from our commissioned work into places where it can have an impact on improving practice in adult social care. In preparation for this we have identified themes common across projects (such as carers, safeguarding, and diversity) that we can use to bring work together to help maximise the impact from projects on improving practice.

One of these thematic clusters is 'personalisation' and we recently held a workshop for the project teams working on research in this area. The goals were to share information about their projects, begin to identify where we can add value across projects (such as sharing literature reviews to limit the need to redo the same work in other projects), and to discuss ideas for using the collective findings to achieve more impact on improving practice than we would necessarily achieve from individual projects alone.

We were also pleased that TLAP was represented at the workshop, which provided us with an opportunity to share ideas and begin to work out how we can collaborate to disseminate the work of the School's personalisation projects. The network of TLAP will be invaluable to us at SSCR in both disseminating the findings and recommendations from projects and making them helpful to those in the frontline, but to also hear feedback from TLAP partners on the work and help inform future research.

We look forward to a very busy next two years as the personalisation projects report their work and to a productive time working with the TLAP partnership to help make a difference to improving adult social care and outcomes for people.

The research projects we have commissioned related to personalisation are:

  • a scoping study by Ann Netten (University of Kent) to identify approaches to personalisation that merit evaluation and further research in order to promote the commissioning and development of cost-effective options for service users;
  • A scoping study on practice and innovations in the care and support of people with complex and severe needs, by Caroline Glendinning, Kate Gridley and Jenni Brooks at the University of York.
  • a study by Kate Baxter, Parvaneh Rabiee and Caroline Glendinning (University of York) examining the opportunities for people who do not manage their budgets themselves to still receive personalised and flexible support and have choice and control over that support;
  • a study by Val Williams (Norah Fry, University of Bristol) to research the range and nature of the support planning provided by various types of organisations, and to gather evidence of what works best for different groups of personal budget holders, including those from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds;
  • a study by John Woolham (University of Coventry) exploring how Adult Services Departments have identified specific issues facing older people as personal budget holders, and what strategies they have in place to deal with them;
  • a study by David Challis (University of Manchester) to investigate the current determinants of and practices in resource allocation, and to develop evidence-based guidance for local authorities regarding resource allocation at the individual level in adult social care;
  • a study by Dan Robotham (Mental Health Foundation) to investigate how direct payments are currently taken up by the proxies of people without capacity, and what constitutes good practice;
  • a study by Rachel Fyson (University of Nottingham) to identify poor practices which people with learning disabilities commonly experience in residential care or supported living settings, which may not fall within the standard definitions of abuse but which are nevertheless unacceptable; and
  • a study by Wendy Mitchell and Caroline Glendinning (University of York) to examine current local policies and practices regarding carers and personalisation, and how far these recognise and balance the respective needs and aspirations of service users and carers, especially when service users have communication or cognitive impairments.
  • Risk, safeguarding and personal budgets: exploring relationships and identifying good practice (Martin Stevens, KCL).
  • Relocation, portability and social care practice: investigating the barriers and solutions encountered by disabled people when moving across local authority areas for employment and education reasons. (David Marsland and Caroline White, University of Hull)

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