The Department of Health’s creation of a school of research into adult social care has received a cautious welcome from experts.
Academics hope the unit, announced last week, will make up for years of under-funding and raise the profile of the social care profession in England.
They say the centre’s first assignment should be to tackle personal budgets and produce evidence-based research for practitioners looking for guidance on implementation.
£3m funding a year
The national school will be based at the National Institute for Health Research in the DH’s London headquarters, and will receive annual government funding of £3m over the next five years.
The DH said this was in addition to an estimated £10m currently spent by the department on adult social care research.
Amanda Edwards, head of knowledge services at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “This will improve the quality and capacity of social care research, which hopefully in turn will improve the quality of the care people receive.”
She said the emphasis should be on developing innovative practice and its economic viability in order to strengthen business plans for future projects.
Unit should cover children’s services
Julian Le Grand, Richard Titmuss professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, welcomed the initiative because “social care research is an underfunded area”. But he argued its scope was too limited because it only covers adult social care and not children’s services.
Restrictions on academics allowed to work at the unit were queried by professors Peter Beresford, director of the Centre for Citizen Participation at the University of Brunel, and Jon Glasby, interim director of the health services management centre at the University of Birmingham.
Beresford said the national school “is a good idea” but the fact the NIHR was seeking applications from academics working on Department of Health-funded research programmes only was a “cause of regret”.
“I hope they extend it to people doing high quality research for the third sector funded by independent trusts,” he added.
The research content should be driven by user-led organisations, in keeping with the government’s personalisation agenda, said Beresford, who is one of only two service users to sit on the NIHR advisory board.
Glasby said the new school was a “very positive step” overall, and, in addition to personalisation, it should explore multi-agency partnerships, prevention, and service user participation.