SCIE Report 10: Developing the evidence base for social work and social care practice
By Peter Marsh and Mike Fisher in collaboration with Nigel Mathers and Sheila Fish
Published November 2005
Research in social care is under-managed. It has been 11 years since a government strategy for research and development was prepared, there is no register of social care research (so there is potential for people to replicate research that's already been done) and there are few systems in place to encourage social care workers to engage in research.
Additionally, much of the available research indicates what needs to be done but not how it should be done, leaving a gap in evidence-based practice. For example, research tells us that contact between foster children and their birth parents can be beneficial, but does not elaborate on how to facilitate that contact.
Perhaps most worryingly, there is no nationally agreed agenda on what areas of social care need focused and sustained research interest. A core area that could benefit from this sort of attention is the outcomes of training for social workers.
This report is intended to influence policy about the future and funding of social care research.
It is aimed at policy makers, politicians and the research community.
Messages from the report
- Modernisation provides a unique opportunity to create a sound evidence base for social care policy and practice. To achieve this shift, we need a modern, developed infrastructure for knowledge production producing one of the most valuable kinds of evidence - that from research.
- Integrated care will be hindered if social care agencies cannot participate with its sister agencies in basing common policies and practices on evidence.
- There are some encouraging signs:
- SCIE and its sister organisations provide a focus for the quality of evidence used to improve policy and practice.
- Work with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has provided an opportunity to obtain greater recognition and investment for social work research.
- The Joint University Council's Social Work Education Committee has committed to preparing a national research framework by spring 2006.
- SCIE, with others, is coordinating work to identify the strengths and weaknesses of UK social work research.
- In both Scotland and England, reviews of the role of social work provide an important opportunity to examine the resources for knowledge production and the part social workers should play in creating and using the knowledge base.
- Review the research infrastructure for social care. Ultimately, this will require a national inquiry into research and development in social care. In preparation for this, SCIE and others could be allocated a medium-term role to coordinate infrastructure development, including identifying some of the key national research priorities and reviewing the options for a national programme of support to develop the social care research workforce.
- Support the research workforce. Initially, this might focus on increasing the role of the ESRC in developing the research skills base, so that social care can develop lecturer-practitioners and professional doctorates focusing on practice-based research. Care councils should also examine their role in increasing the requirement that staff participate in research as part of their re-registration.
- Develop the resources for research. The report suggests that resource development should be seen as a long-term process, with an initial focus on ensuring existing programmes of research adequately reflect social work and social care research perspectives and priorities. Investment in improvement services should also be reviewed to ensure they are accompanied by research to evaluate their effectiveness. Also, commissioners and services providers should provide for research funding alongside service provision.
All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following download you will need a free MySCIE account:
- SCIE Report 10: Developing the evidence base for social work and social care practice