A paper setting out a framework for collaboration between NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) and IMPACT was discussed at the HSDR Programme Oversight Committee in April 2022. The principles for closer working to promote and enhance social care research were welcomed by the HSDR Programme Director and committee. The Committee endorsed the approach, setting out how this informal collaboration might work and key touchpoints where there would be mutual benefit in close working to maximise HSDR outputs and reach wider social care audiences. This was seen as an exciting opportunity for the Programme.
It was agreed that information on current studies in the pipeline could be shared regularly with Jon Glasby and staff at IMPACT, perhaps on a quarterly basis. It was suggested that pilot work would be done with early engagement with teams and projects on linked studies on family group conferencing and support for people with learning disabilities/autism leaving long-stay hospitals which are likely to be of great interest to social care practitioners and service users.
Jon Glasby is also linked into other parts of NIHR, including the School for Social Care Research, Research for Social Care programme and the NIHR Centre for Engagement and Dissemination. Developing ways of working with HSDR programme may be a useful pilot arrangement which could be the model for other parts of NIHR.
This paper was then discussed at the IMPACT Leadership Team meeting in June 2022. With a few minor changes in wording or emphasis, IMPACT would be keen to pursue all the opportunities below as a way of supporting NIHR as it extends its social care expertise and presence, and as a way of supporting a number of IMPACT’s key objectives.
Frameworks for working with NIHR
IMPACT is the UK centre funded by the ESRC and Health Foundation to implement evidence in adult social care. Following a scoping phase with surveys and Assemblies to identify pressing topics and ways of working, the new centre will enter a steady state for five years from 2023-27. After this, the aspiration is that the centre, or key elements of its work, becomes a more permanent feature of the social care landscape (future business model tbc).
NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme is a national funding programme awarding more than £20m a year for research on the quality and organisation of services in health and social care. Projects relevant to social care range from evidence synthesis on strengths-based approaches to social work to ambitious evaluations of family group conferences for vulnerable adults.
Suggested areas for joint working and synergy
- Anticipating research pipeline and maximising funded outputs
HSDR has a number of projects underway in the area of adult social care. This includes £7m+ investment in local adult social care research partnerships around the country, projects on self-neglect, care workforce and support for older carers. In the first instance, this could be a pilot for one or two research teams and projects to work with IMPACT, with IMPACT delivery staff working to implement findings from these studies. This would need to depend on their being an appropriate ‘fit’ between forthcoming research and IMPACT’s priorities for 2023-25 (to be submitted to IMPACT’s funders in September 2022). NIHR studies would also need to be working with a similar definition of evidence (which IMPACT defines in terms of insights from different types of research, the lived experience of people drawing on care and support and carers, and the practice knowledge of social care staff).
- Identifying gaps/research needs
IMPACT’s broad and deep engagement will help to identify priority areas for future research. This is already evident from outputs from the survey/Assemblies which highlighted the importance of research in areas like prevention and wellbeing, asset-based approaches, carers’ health and wellbeing, and support for people who work in social care. Having chosen a series of key topics for its forthcoming work programme, IMPACT also goes through a ‘triage’ process to make sure that there is enough evidence with which to work, and checking for gaps – in either research, lived experience or practice knowledge. HSDR could work with IMPACT and constituent partners to work up briefs in priority areas, identifying important areas of research interest and important gaps in knowledge and framing calls in ways that will resonate with social care researchers and communities.
- Building capacity and sharing expertise
Consider opportunities to develop and strengthen capacity and community in adult social care research. Some approaches for embedded research and capacity building are being tested in the new HSDR adult social care partnership research awards, as well as particular opportunities through NIHR Academy Incubator for Social Care. There may be other opportunities – for instance, shadowing or sharing resources around review and research methods through the rapid evaluation and synthesis centres. This is a key priority for IMPACT as one of its four objectives is around building capacity in the workforce, and there may be scope to explore for IMPACT to support the local stakeholders with whom it is working on the ground to encourage stronger applications for existing NIHR capacity building schemes and helping to create a pipeline of credible candidates for these opportunities.
HSDR would also benefit from the expertise and networks of IMPACT to strengthen funding committee and reviewer base to make the right decisions with the right expertise for new projects.
- IMPACT and HSDR Programme staff to meet to take forward above areas for development – with quarterly meetings suggested going forwards
- There is a particular opportunity to build in 1-2 topics from current NIHR projects into the draft work programme which IMPACT submits to funders in September 2022
- IMPACT and HSDR to explore scope to publish a statement about this relationship/ways of working