Jul 24 2013

Maximising the Value of Survey Data in Adult Social Care


The Adult Social Care Survey (ASCS) (formerly known as the User Experience Survey) and Personal Social Services Survey of Carers in England (PSS SACE) (widely referred to as the Carers Survey), have the potential to be a valuable resource for guiding local policy-making and driving improvements in outcomes for service users and carers. However finding the time to conduct the detailed analysis needed to make the data useful is a challenge faced by many local authorities (LAs), who may lack the staff and resources to do much more than submit the statutory returns to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).  Making such analysis a priority may be further impeded by the belief that these surveys are too broad and do not ask the right questions or the need for additional guidance to analyse and interpret the results.  A new project funded by the Department of Health through the Quality and Outcomes of person-centred care Research Unit (QORU), Maximising the Value of Survey Data in Adult Social Care (or MAX), aims to address these issues and find ways to support LAs to make full use of these surveys.  Here, Clara Heath from the MAX project team provides a brief overview of the project and the various ways people can get involved and have their say in the direction the project takes. 

How can the MAX project help local authorities?

We hope to facilitate the administration and analysis of the ASCS and PSS SACE by promoting both a greater understanding of the surveys and how they can be maximally used to guide local policy- and decision-making.  At this early stage of the project the MAX team envisage developing a toolkit for each survey which could include:

  • Separate guides to analysing ASCS or PSS SACE data (e.g. overviews of the types of analysis that can be conducted, step-by-step instructions for specific kinds of analysis).
  • Simple templates and excel-based tools to support local data analysts to analyse and present the survey data and results.
  • Briefing notes of case studies detailing how data has been analysed and/or used by LAs to guide decision making and service improvement.
  • Summaries of accumulated evidence on the development of the key outcome questions in the ASCS and PSS SACE, to demonstrate the validity, reliability and sensitivity of the questions to social care outcomes.
  • Policy and practice-oriented summaries of evidence from national research projects on the national ASCS and PSS SACE datasets that can be used by policy-makers, managers and practitioners to inform policy and practice, and by local data analysts to enhance their analysis of the data.

These ideas for the toolkits are only provisional and we are open to suggestions.  We want the toolkits to address a wide range of practical and theoretical issues and be both useful and applicable to LAs.  So if you think additional tools or an alternative to a toolkit would be better, we would like to know.

... but do we know what local authorities want?

The need for a project such as MAX was highlighted by informal feedback from some LA staff who felt that the surveys did not ask the right questions or could not be used to address local priorities. Before developing the toolkit we thought it would be helpful to explore views about the surveys and challenges in a more comprehensive and systematic way.  At this stage, therefore, we would like engage with as many individuals and organisations as possible in order to hear their perspectives and test these against our assumptions about what local authorities may want.

We have lots of activities planned to gather as many perspectives as possible.  Currently, we are in the ‘fact-finding’ phase of the project, which includes an online survey, telephone interviews and document analysis. We are asking LA staff to tell us

  • What they think of the ASCS and PSS SACE
  • What challenges they face making use of the ASCS and PSS SACE data and the best way to support their efforts
  • Whether they would find a toolkit valuable and, if so, what information should it contain and how should the information be presented.

We have already conducted the online survey and received a fantastic response from a wide range of local authorities.  It is already clear to us that LA staff have a lot to say about the ASCS and PSS SACE, and we look forward to learning more from them during the course of the project. 

The MAX project team are now in the process of analysing the survey results – and will blog about these over the next few weeks – and arranging telephone interviews to further explore issues raised in the surveys.  LA staff (e.g. analysts, managers, commissioners, quality assurance teams, practitioners) that have not taken part in the survey are welcome to take part in the interviews or any other activity of interest, and are encouraged to contact the MAX team.  Later on in the project we would like LA staff, as well as staff from providers, members of the public, service users and carers, to help us develop and test the content of the toolkits and think about their presentation.

So, how can you get involved in the MAX project and have your say about what is developed?

To encourage widespread involvement in the MAX project, in addition to the activities planned we are currently exploring how we can further boost engagement using social media.  We are now blogging on our own website www.maxproject.org.uk and will link in to other blogs where possible.  We have also just joined twitter so please do follow us @Maxprojectteam to get the latest project updates and let us know what you think.

Clara Heath is leading on the MAX project and works for PSSRU at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Want to find out more?

Further information about the MAX project can be found online at www.maxproject.org.uk, which includes details about the various ways of getting involved in the research activities and consultation panels, or by contacting the project team at maxproject@kent.ac.uk.


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