Oct 10 2012

Working colloboratively to improve and develop social care practice

Research evidence is absolutely vital for social care, yet we are still struggling with the link between research and practice in social care; it is not so much a case of ‘translating’ the research but localising it and putting it into context; most people aren’t hard to reach if we reach them in their own way; we need to repackage research findings for different stakeholders.

These were just some of the messages from our workshop, ‘Maximising research impact in social care‘ on 4 October 2012 (read more here). They are examples of values that are forming the basis of a new collaborative project by SSCR, the Personal Social Services Research Unit at LSE, research in practice for adults (ripfa), RAND Europe (and anyone else who would like to engage with it!).

Social Care Evidence in Practice: The Project

SSCR, PSSRU at the LSE, ripfa and RAND Europe have embarked on an exciting new project to get researchers and practitioners working together to understand the best methods for research dissemination and communication, and generally to get them talking more openly to each other by applying evidence to practice questions. Funded by the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Higher Education Innovation Fund the project will also explore two methods for showing the impact of research: bibliometrics and scoping the possibility of putting an economic value on research.

We will be exploring and addressing many of the challenges, opportunities and questions raised at last week’s impact workshop, and is seeking engagement from across the sector to get the most out of this project. Over the course of the one-year project, practitioners will also be involved in two small funded projects to devise and trial user-friendly channels so that research evidence reaches the people who can apply it to social care practice. The key question is what works best for practitioners – e.g. animated briefings, podcasts, filmed Q&A sessions where an academic is quizzed about a particular topic – particularly given pressures on their time, and ensuring the answers feed into future research processes.

Getting involved

In the first instance we are asking social care professionals to send through their key local practice questions, the ones where they would like researchers to provide existing evidence-based answers. To kick off the project, the two starting topics are the Care and Support White Paper and long-term care/conditions, but practice questions in other areas are very welcome.

Practice questions can be sent in any form:

These will feed into the first project ‘unconference’ on 19 October 2012 (10am-4pm). The unconference will take place at LSE, and will also explore research on “value for money” in social care.

19 October 2012

Registration for the unconference on 19 October is by email to ke-socialcare@lse.ac.uk. At this event, which is the first of a series, delegates will be able to help choose the priority questions and work through some of the available evidence. All are welcome. Register now as places are limited.

Developing a common commitment

It is extremely important to us for our research to be grounded by practitioners, commissioners, providers, service users, carers, not least because our motivation is to support improvements and developments in adult social care practice through research. Working in silos is not the answer.

“We know there is a lot of very good social care research out there but it does not always have the impact in social care practice that it could but we need support from practitioners with this.

People have complex needs and use services in particularly ways, so you can’t necessarily spot all the potential pitfalls at the drawing board. Researchers come in and take a closer look at what’s going on, with support from practitioners. As researchers we are not there to arrest development, but often to fine tune it, give it better direction and identify hurdles along the way.

Sometimes, the research tells us that we are indeed on the right lines and to press on. For example, we did a small piece of work, funded by the Department of Health, testing the economic case for community projects. It looked at whether, for example, befriending and time banks pay off in terms of reduced service use, helping people into jobs etc. We found a clear economic case for this work, which was cited in the Government’s recent White Paper, as encouraging communities to play a bigger role in meeting social care needs”.
Professor Martin Knapp, Director, SSCR; Director, PSSRU at LSE. 

It is important for everyone collectively working in the sector – be it via research or practice – to take up these challenges, opportunities and questions and develop common approaches to work for the benefit of all.

“Cuts usually mean practitioners are stretched and keeping up-to-date with research is not seen as a priority. Commitment needs to come from the organisation and senior managers to support a research aware culture”.
Dr Chris Rainey, Social Research Manager, West Sussex County Council

More important is that researchers and social care practitioners work together, with service users, carers and other stakeholders, to get the most out of research. By enhancing the dialogue between social care professionals and academic this project hopes to make the use of research a mainstream aspect of social care practice.

Looking forward to hearing from you

SSCR is keen to hear further on the issues raised around research impact, communication and engagement and hear suggestions on how practice and research can be brought closer together. Do get in touch.

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