The news in June that the Government’s Green Paper on social care will now be delayed until the autumn (having already been deferred since 2017) brought sighs of weariness rather than real surprise from the sector.
The recent focus on NHS funding, and the NHS’s 70th birthday, has also highlighted ongoing concerns that the funding crisis in other areas, including social care, mental health services and public health is being pushed to the sidelines.
What is clear, is that the need for evidence-based interventions, and proven value for money, is only getting stronger as budgets continue to be stretched.
The value of research
So, what’s the role of research knowledge within social work and social care? The Social Care Institute for Excellence has suggested that research can help practitioners and decision-makers to understand:
- the social world in which those who use services live
- why positive and negative events occur in the lives of some and not others
- the relative success of interventions and their impact on these events
- the role of the social care practitioner in relationships and interventions with service users
- how social policies impact on the lives of people using services.
Studies such as cost-benefit analyses or randomised controlled trials are also part of the evidence base although they are less common in social care/social services than in health contexts.
Research takes place in different ways, with different aims. And the outcomes of research can be communicated in different ways. Blogs such as our own at the Knowledge Exchange aim to signpost readers to recent research on particular topics. Other good sources of accessible discussion of research findings include The Conversation blog and Community Care.
Meanwhile, database services such as the Idox Information Service or Social Policy and Practice will provide more comprehensive coverage of issues, bringing together research studies from other parts of the world which are transferable.
Social Policy and Practice
Many NHS Trusts and councils subscribe to the Social Policy and Practice database as part of their package of support for learning and development.
Recent feedback from users has highlighted its strong coverage of many current priority issues in public health, such as:
- dementia care
- delayed discharge
- funding of long term care
- safeguarding of both children and adults
- supporting resilience and well-being
- tackling obesity
- asset-based approaches
As a UK-produced database, Social Policy and Practice also includes information on topical policy issues such as minimum alcohol pricing, sugar taxes, and the possible impact on the health and social care workforce of Brexit.
The database is produced by a consortium of four organisations: Social Care Institute for Excellence, Centre for Policy on Ageing, Idox Information Service and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Idox Information Service
With a wider range of topics covered, the Idox Information Service has been identified as a key database by the Alliance for Useful Evidence. Cross-cutting issues which impact on health and social services, such as poverty, housing, and social exclusion are covered in depth. It also covers management and performance topics.
The Idox Information Service also offers a range of current awareness services and access to a team of expert researchers, in addition to the database. The aim is to support the continuing professional development of hard-pressed frontline staff while also supporting the sharing of research and evidence across the sector.
Meeting the needs of the social care sector
Both Social Policy and Practice, and the Idox Information Service aim to increase the social care sector’s capacity for evidence-informed practice.
As battle lines are drawn over government funding, it’s clear that these will continue to be financially challenging times for public services and that demand for services will carry on growing. Investing in learning and development is one way to ensure that staff are equipped with the skills and tools to be the best that they can be. This in turn will ultimately improve performance and outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society.
To find out more about the history of the Social Policy and Practice database and the consortium of publishers behind it, read this article from 2016 which we have been given permission to share. Trials of the database can be requested here.