Research evidence needs to reach those who can use it, yet social care research carried out by practitioners as an adjunct to delivering services rarely gets publicised. Research carried out in academic settings generally finds its way into the public domain in some form, usually through a journal paper. In contrast, research carried out in local authorities or third sector organisations often circulates no further than the organisation where it originated. The latest issue of Research, Policy and Planning draws together articles covering findings from five research studies led by or heavily involving social care practitioners.

 

The five articles cover varying aspects of social care - residential child care, personal budgets and sustaining benefits after payments stop, supervision in a youth offending service, peer support for older people living with dementia, and equipment and adaptations. All the authors are social care professionals: three were relatively new to research; two are more experienced researchers working in non-profit organisations.

 

Research Policy and Practice (RPP) is produced by the Social Services Research Group. The special issue was produced as part of a trial that provided academic mentoring support to practitioners to develop a journal article from research they have undertaken. It was one element of the Social Care Evidence in Practice (SCEiP) project led by the Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with support from the NIHR School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR) and funding from LSE’s Higher Educational Innovation Fund. This knowledge exchange initiative explored practical approaches to embedding research evidence into adult social care practice.

 

The culture within academia expects journal papers and/or publications from research, whereas the culture within practice settings is focused on practical outcomes to improve lives with limited time to write-up and publish findings. This SCEiP project activity aimed to support professionals to develop outputs, the skills useful in writing specifically for peer-reviewed journals and greater awareness of the process from start to publication. It also aimed to encourage knowledge sharing from within practice organisations.

 

Professor Martin Knapp, Director of PSSRU and NIHR SSCR, said “We are strongly committed to supporting improvements in the use of research and one aspect of this is awareness of current research, including research carried out in local authorities and the third sector. Through this initiative we hope to encourage others to consider publishing their research (in whatever form) to make findings from all research more accessible, and in turn improve the evidence base for social care practice in England”.

 

Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker at the Department of Health, said “We must make sure practice is informed by evidence of what we know works, as well as learning from the experiences of others, and to do that we not only need to improve the way in which research is shared between academic and practice settings, but also our learning with our colleagues in practice. That doesn’t mean we all have to write journal papers but we should consider different ways to share our learning more widely”.

 

The issue will be available from noon on 17 September 2015 at http://ssrg.org.uk/research-policy-and-planning-vol-31/.

 

Notes to editors:

 
  1. For further information on this SCEiP initiative, please contact Anji Mehta, a.mehta3@lse.ac.uk, 020-7955-6238.
  2. For further information on RPP and submission of articles to the journal, please contact Shelley Nix, s.nix@derby.ac.uk.
  3. Research, Policy and Planning is devoted to publishing work by researchers and practitioners in local and central government, other statutory authorities and voluntary agencies and academic institutions. All papers are peer reviewed by external assessors from academic and policy communities. Further details and information on submission processes can be found at http://ssrg.org.uk/journal/.
  4. The Social Care Evidence in Practice (SCEiP) project was funded by the London School of Economics and Political Science's Higher Education Innovation Fund between August 2012 and July 2014. The project aimed to develop greater understanding between researchers and practitioners, to explore best practice for knowledge exchange between these two groups and to review impact assessment approaches. Further details can be found at http://socialcareresearchimpact.org.uk/.
  5. The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at LSE is the foremost social care and mental health economics research group in the UK and one of the leading such groups internationally. Its mission is to conduct high-quality policy analysis, evaluation and research to inform policy, practice and theory, and is regularly commended for its 'exceptional track record in adult social care research' and 'significant contribution to strengthening the evidence-base for policymaking in key areas'. Further information can be found at http://www.pssru.ac.uk/index-kent-lse.php.
  6. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research (SSCR) was established in 2009 to develop and improve the evidence base for adult social care practice in England. It conducts and commissions high-quality research. In Phase II (2014-2019) the School is a partnership between the London School of Economics and Political Science and the Universities of Bristol, Kent, Manchester and York, and is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) www.nihr.ac.uk/. For details can be found at www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk.
  7. The Social Services Research Group (SSRG) is an independent network of individuals who provide a range of research information, planning and evaluation in social care and health services. SSRG members are drawn from a wide range of professional groups and organisations sharing a common interest in the work of the caring services. Further details can be found at http://ssrg.org.uk/.
  8. PSSRU and NIHR SSCR would like to thank all authors for their submissions and for working with us to finalise this edition, as well as Professor Michael Hill for the mentoring support he provided. They also thank the editors Guy Daly and John Woolham, and Shelley Nix, RPP’s publishing editor, for their support in producing this RPP edition and engagement with this SCEiP initiative.
 

Articles included in the issue

 

Practitioner? Researcher? Educator? A discussion of identity and the implications on getting evidence

into practice

George Julian

 

Relationship boundaries in residential child care: connection and safety in group care relationships

Phil Coady

 

Following a period in which the place of relationships in social care has been marginalised by an approach focusing on targets, outcomes, standards and regulation, there is a resurgence of interest in relationship-based approaches in both policy and practice arenas. However, it is not clear whether or not practices that have been influenced by prior policy positions and powerful discourses about the nature of professionalism will easily embrace this new position.

 

This practitioner research project was undertaken as part of a knowledge exchange project organised by University of Edinburgh in partnership with local authority children and families social work services to work towards reducing the gap between research and practice. This research project explores one aspect of the relationships between workers and young people in residential child care services – relationship boundary decisions of workers in a range of everyday situations, and the individual, organisational and contextual factors that appear to influence them.

 

A complex picture emerges, which suggests that relationship boundary decisions are influenced by a wide range of factors and does not support the idea that there are, or can be, clear boundary positions delineating the limits of professional behaviour.

 

The death of reflective supervision? An exploration of the role of reflection within supervision in a Local Authority Youth Offending Service

Rhian Taylor

 

Reflection within supervision has been identified as key to effective social work practice (Munro, 2011). However, despite the tradition of supervision being strongly embedded in youth justice practice, other imperatives, such as audit monitoring and the focus on inspection readiness, have impacted on the content of supervision and the degree of reflection which occurs. This article reports research that examined the experience of practitioners within a Local Authority Youth Offending Service, exploring the content and level of reflection within their supervision. The research found that whilst supervision is well embedded within the organisation, the content of supervision for practitioners largely focuses on the management function (Morrison, 2005). Whilst many participants thought that their supervision involved some reflection on further analysis, using Ruch’s (2005) levels of reflection model, much of the perceived reflection occurred at the ‘technical’ and ‘practical’ level rather than the ‘process’ or ‘critical’ level. The article explores the implications of the findings and the response of the author’s employing organisation to this research.

 

How can the benefits of personal budgets for people with mental illness be sustained after the payments stop?

Naomi Clewett, Sarah Hamilton, Paulina Szymczynska, Jill Manthorpe, Jerry Tew, John Larsen and Vanessa Pinfold

 

One aim of mental health social work is to promote recovery and independence for people accessing services. Personal budgets, which can now be requested by all mental health service users in England, can enable service users to achieve these outcomes. This paper addresses the lack of evidence on service user understandings of the purpose and duration of their personal budget, and their experiences of personal budgets ending. We draw on interviews with 53 mental health service users and 28 practitioners. We identify how different factors affect the sustainability of the outcome: the type of outcome identified, how far service user and practitioner understanding of outcomes are shared, and the ability to continue activities after the budget ends. We draw out learning for practitioners and policy makers on improving the sustainability of outcomes achieved through personal budgets, and improving service user experiences of their endings.

 

The value of peer support on cognitive improvement amongst older people living with dementia

Lauren Chakkalackal

 

Peer support can play a critical role in improving the wellbeing, social support and practical coping strategies of older people living with dementia. This paper describes selected findings from the Mental Health Foundation’s evaluation of three peer support groups for people living with dementia in extra-care housing schemes. It highlights the groups as a promising approach for maintaining cognitive faculties, reducing social isolation, increasing social networks and improving overall wellbeing. A mixed-method study design examined the impact of the groups on participants’ wellbeing, managing memory, independent living skills and social support. Participants reported positive impact from taking part in the support groups for wellbeing, social support and practical coping strategies. Participants also reported positive benefits of the groups on communication abilities, managing memory and managing their lives. Peer support groups in extra-care housing schemes address the psychological, social and emotional needs of people with dementia. This evaluation adds to the literature on the effectiveness of these interventions for those with cognitive impairment.

 

Decisions about equipment and adaptations used for bathing and showering

Joy McLaggan

 

Bathing and showering equipment and adaptations are commonly prescribed by Occupational Therapists in Adult Services. Despite this very little is known about what affects whether or not these items are used by individuals. With demands increasing it is essential that the experiences, preferences and needs of users are better understood in order that the equipment and adaptations provided are fully utilised and the need of the user met in a client-centred approach.

 

This article details the research ‘Equipment and Adaptations used for Bathing and Showering: Views of Individuals on their Use’ (McLaggan, 2011) which examined:

  • What equipment and/or adaptations do people use for bathing and showering?
  • Do people utilise all the equipment and/or adaptations they possess?
  • What affects whether or not people use equipment and/or adaptations?

The article will consider the findings from this research in relation to existing research in this field.