RPP 17 3 Editorial

Research Policy and Planning: The journal of the Social Services Research Group – Vol 17 (3) 1999


We must begin with apologies for the extremely late publication of this Workshop Highlights edition of Research Policy and Planning. Sadly, with the increased use of power point and similar technical wizardry, more and more of our workshop presenters are speaking to presentations rather than producing good old fashioned written papers. This has meant, for the 1999 edition, that we have pulled together papers that were produced for the Annual Workshop and added another from a later Scottish Region SSRG one day conference on inter-agency working. This has resulted in a fairly slim volume, which we hope nonetheless contains some useful feedback for both those who attended and those who could not. Systems have now been put in place to access written articles and digests for future Annual Workshops.

The first paper, from a plenary session at the 1999 Annual Workshop by Lloyd Davis, examines the lessons for researchers and planners in local authority social services departments from Joint Audit Commission/SSI Reviews. Central messages are that authorities need to know more about people using their services, what works for them, the cost of services and whether they represent value for money. He suggests that if local authorities do not improve service management by deciding what they want to achieve and how they will measure their performance then central government will.

Mick Bond presented a workshop on men’s experiences of health problems and services in North Derbyshire and the full text is included here. He described a research project carried out by the Health Authority in 1996/7 which asked men what they understood to be their most important health problems, whether and how they accessed services and what, if anything, prevented them from seeking help. No one particular health concern emerged. Sexual health problems were identified as the most difficult to discuss although being overweight was also mentioned by younger men. The two key reasons for men delaying seeking treatment more than women were a ‘macho’ culture and a fear of what they might learn and what would then happen. A number of suggestions were made about improving local health services, one of the most common being the need for health education for boys from an early age.

The Workshop Reports section contains shorter reports and abstracts from presentations at the 1999 Annual Conference. In the first, Phillip Cunningham of Essex Social Services describes a successful information system initiative in relation to hospital discharges in the County. In the second, Jabeer Butt and Leandra Box of the Race Equality Unit outline their national study into the use of family centres by Black families before highlighting some of their key findings. Finally, Jill Manthorpe and Gary Craig reflect on the experience of local government re-organisation and draw out the lessons to be learned from their research.

The final paper in this edition was presented at the Scottish Region SSRG day on inter-agency working in theory and practice. Margaret Wells, Vice President of the Association of Directors of Social Work in Scotland took as her central theme co-operation and collaboration in social work services in Scotland. After exploring the inter-relationship between the social work, local government and broader national policy agendas, this paper concludes by outlining some possible ways of implementing a complex agenda from strategic planning to operational levels.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Research Policy and Planning.

Carol Lupton and Lesley Saunders Joint Editors