Evidence gathering in social care research. Are we looking in the right places?

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the NIHR Health & Social John WoolhamCare Workforce Research Unit (HSCWRU), King’s College London. John reports from a Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme seminar, 15 May, which he attended on behalf of HSCWRU. (463 words)

The HS&DR is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is responsible for funding research in health and social care settings. Its programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence to improve the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care services.

The purpose of the seminar was to enable HS&DR to better understand the needs of evidence users, with a particular focus on social care, and how the HS&DR programme can respond to these needs. Continue reading

Getting the message about assistive technology and telecare: new guidance

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (592 words)

Last week I was invited to speak at the launch of ‘Help at Home – use of assistive technology got older people’ a review of current research evidence published by the National Institute for Health Research Dissemination Centre. My presentation discussed some of the findings from research I’d done last year as part of the NIHR School for Social Care Research funded UTOPIA project, which gets a mention in the review.

This review is timely and welcome. There has been considerable investment by local authorities in assistive technology and telecare at a time of unrelenting austerity. The research evidence to support this investment offers mixed messages, and local authority commissioners don’t have access to research findings, or even if they did, the time to read them. Worse, at least some of the information about telecare’s impact that is accessible is misleading. Local authorities are also under pressure: increasing demand for care and support, particularly from growing numbers of older people, and cuts to adult social care budgets that are unprecedented in their scale.

Is assistive technology and telecare the solution? Local authorities are keen to use it to promote independence, keep people living safely in their own homes and to reduce burdens facing family carers, which will, of course, also save money. These are all worthy objectives, but as the review suggests, more likely to be achieved by local authorities that pay good attention to the infrastructure within which assistive technology is used, rather than just the devices themselves.

The review makes the important point that much research in this field to-date appears to have focused on ‘high end digital technology’ rather than evaluating the impact of more basic technologies to help with everyday life; and more focus on the development of prototype technologies than real world testing. There are also some real challenges laid out for local authorities or other organisations that provide telecare services. For example, it reflects concerns by older people, highlighted in one international study that technology will be used as a substitute for hands on care. This is precisely what is happening in many local authorities in England at the present time. Another challenge from research is the suggestion that assessment and installation are seen as sequential one-off events (‘plug and play’) when getting the best out of it means seeing these as on-going processes, and that even simple technologies should be seen as a ‘complex intervention’. How does this compare with practices in hard pressed local authority adult social care departments at the present time?

Anyone working in this field or who is using, or thinking of using, technology, should find this report contains valuable insights, even if some of them are challenging. Research reviews can be dry-as-dust, of interest only to the scholarly or the assiduous and with little of value to care professionals. This review is readable and relevant. It offers clear summaries of current research evidence and there are also clear messages about what needs to happen for telecare to make an effective, optimal contribution towards the care and support of older people. It deserves to be widely read and for key messages to be addressed in practice.

John Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. John’s presentation from the day.

The author’s own work, cited here, is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research. The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NIHR/SSCR, NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care.

 

‘Carelessness does more harm than a want of knowledge’ —Benjamin Franklin

Dr Mary BaginskyMary Baginsky is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. (1,005 words)

I have been conducting research for more years than I am prepared to admit – sometimes to myself. Much of it has been qualitative in nature, although often as part of a mixed approach methodology. So quantitative data have helped to define the issues to be explored in more depth through interviews and focus groups, for example, or qualitative work has been used to help identify the issues that should be explored through a survey. I am used to weighing concepts such as reliability, validity and generalisability when designing and carrying out projects and reporting their findings, whatever their provenance. I am also as fallible as anyone in not seeing an inherent flaw – that is where the wisdom of colleagues and, however imperfect, the peer review process can be invaluable. However, my experiences of the past few years have given me cause for concern. In conducting a review of evidence on an area where I have been working I have been shocked by some of the things I have found. It has led me to wonder if I would find the same level of errors if I looked long enough in other papers, books and articles. Continue reading

Child protection social work: call for study participants

Nicola Anderson is a child protection social worker who is also conducting a study of what affects child protection social workers working directly with parents. If you would like to take part or learn more about the research please contact Nicola: nicola.anderson@study.beds.ac.uk (441 words)

Engaging parents in direct work is an important part of working in child protection. Sometimes it can be a very difficult task as social workers are entering people’s private family life and interventions can feel invasive. Parents are justifiably reluctant to allow this. Parents can express their feelings to the social worker involved and this can sometimes become aggressive. Social workers meet aggression so often that reducing aggression has now become part of social work (Taylor 2011). Schools of thought are that social workers contribute to parents’ negative feelings as a result of their communication or practice styles. There are movements towards changing the way social workers communicate and work with families with the emphasis on respect, listening and ensuring parents understanding of and involvement in plans and processes, for example motivational interviewing and signs of safety. Continue reading

Personalisation: towards evidence that counts

Dr Martin StevensMartin Stevens is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s. (811 words)

Personalisation has been a dominant theme in social care policy for 25 years and has also been a strong theme for the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. In addition to our involvement in the Evaluation of the Individual Budgets pilots in 2008 (Glendinning et al 2008), the Unit has completed studies on Risk, Safeguarding and Personal Budgets; personalised employment support: Jobs First; and, on Personal Assistants and Personal Budgets. The Unit has published extensively on this topic, which has also been identified as a context in many other studies. Continue reading

Research ‘showcase’ at the Department of Health and Social Care

John WoolhamJohn Woolham is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (637 words)

I was invited to speak last month at a seminar organised by the School for Social Care Research (SSCR) at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The purpose of the event was to ‘showcase’ research SSCR have funded over the last couple of years and to further cement links between researchers and policy-makers. Continue reading

Is Donald useful?

NigelCharlesOct17Nigel Charles is a health services researcher at the University of Exeter Medical School. He also has Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and draws on his experience of this to suggest a patient informed research study about using statistics to help patients deal with the emotional impact of cancer. (1,418 words)

I’m in a club no one wants to be in. The Cancer Club. This post is about a hunch I have about how to handle being a member of this club and the need for this to be researched. I’m also waving the flag for patients shaping the research agenda.

I was diagnosed with an aggressive variety of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma—a type of blood cancer—in October 2016. (Indeed, I write this on the day of the anniversary of my first hospital admission which led to the diagnosis. Happy Birthday.) The haematologists who specialise in the treatment of NHL found a cricket ball sized tumour buried deep inside my abdomen. Surgery was needed to stop it blocking my bowel but subsequent chemotherapy hasn’t worked. We have yet to see if the next and last available option—radiotherapy—will. Continue reading

Notes from the inaugural conference of the Italian Society of Social Work Research

Gaia CetranoGaia Cetrano is a Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (1,100 words)

In May this year I was proud to take part in the first conference organized by the new Italian Society of Social Work Research (SOCISS) in Turin, Italy.

The origins of SOCISS date back to 1983 when a group of teachers of social work founded the Italian Association of Teachers of Social Work (AIDOSS). AIDOSS assiduously worked over 30 years to develop common thinking on theories of social work, as well as on the organization of university curricula, and the role of training and research. Then what happened? The Association committee reunited in 2016 and approved a new constitution outlining its new objectives, which included strengthening the dialogue between theory and practice in social work and promoting social work research in Italy and internationally. I think it is very important that the status of the association has now changed to that of a scientific society as this will hopefully help professionals, researchers and academics to acquire a stronger voice and also be in a better position to communicate and negotiate with other disciplines. Continue reading

Bringing it all together – re-valuing older people by combining research, training and practice

Valerie LipmanValerie Lipman is a Postdoc Intern at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

Here’s a challenge for learning institutes in the UK: how can they deliver on-site direct services for the vulnerable groups whom they’re studying and promoting? I talked to Dr Indrani Chakravarty, the founder and Director, of the Calcutta Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology (CMIG) about her experience of doing just this and how she marries research with real practice. Continue reading

Adult Social Care – where’s the evidence?

Jo Moriarty Nov 2014bJo Moriarty and Martin Stevens are Senior Research Fellows at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. (1,192 words)

People often talk about the absence of a social care evidence base, but ‘patchy’ is a far better description. Until we arMartin Stevense more explicit about this, it will be difficult to make progress in achieving evidence based policy and practice. We took part in two Meet the Researcher sessions at an event jointly organised by Research in Practice for Adults (RIPfA), the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS). They were part of a day-long seminar designed to bring Directors and Assistant Directors of Adult Social Care and researchers together to discuss current and future adult social care research. Continue reading