Research Policy and Planning: The journal of the Social Services Research Group – Vol 18 (1) 2000
We noted in the introduction to an earlier edition of Research Policy and Planning that the editorial board has been seeking for some time to counter a tendency to ‘Anglocentrism’ within its pages and ensure that the journal reflects the interests and experience of members across the whole of the UK. In the second of our specially commissioned ‘Issues and Debates’ papers, Dr Paula Kilbane of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board writes about the new Northern Ireland Assembly and its approach to policy development in health and social care services. Although the article was written whilst the Assembly was suspended its content remains relevant. Indeed, as we go to press, we are glad to note that the Assembly was restored as from midnight on Sunday 28th May, 2000.
The four main papers in this edition focus in different ways on the key issues of participation, involvement and collaboration in social care services. In the first Charles Patmore, Hazel Qureshi and Elinor Nicholas discuss the lessons from research for both researchers and service managers in consulting older community care clients about their services. Using the findings of a study with 88 older recipients of Social Services community care they highlight users’ preferences for personal contact, individual attention and interview by managers. Although, as might be expected, there was a range of individual preferences, methods were identified which either suited particular groups or which could access different types of information.
Stephen Peckham focuses on the increasing emphasis on collaboration between primary care and other organisations such as social services, as well as on community participation. He reviews, in his paper, the development of primary care groups, before examining their organisation and exploring their potential to deliver improved collaboration and participation. Setting his discussion within a broad policy context to see how far government goals in relation to primary care are being met, he draws on recent research evidence to question whether these new organisations provide a basis for increased opportunities. He concludes that despite some early tensions and concerns inevitable with any new initiative, the future will bring new collaborative developments which should provide the basis for improved services.
The third paper, by Kristin Denniston, Andrew Pithouse and Michael Bloor, describes the findings of a small pilot study, funded by the Wales Office of Research and Development, to assess the feasibility of using economic analysis to evaluate different models of joint working in community care. The results suggest potentially significant variations work patterns on assessment and care planning across social workers in hospital, GP and area based settings. The authors conclude that whilst there are hidden costs in removing social workers from the hospital into the community the potential preventative benefits of GP-attachment may outweigh these and suggest a larger economic study to draw robust conclusions. They also propose that future research should investigate in more detail the links between organisational arrangements, work practices, costs and quality of outcome. On a methodological note, this paper additionally reviews the usefulness of the concurrent diary method and suggests that although it may have higher opportunity costs in terms of social worker time and a lower response rate than a retrospective approach, the gains in quality and quantity of information justify its use in a larger study.
Lastly, Dr Jenny Owen and Josie Tetley examine the effectiveness of using postgraduate student projects to meet public and voluntary service needs for evaluation and increased research awareness. Reflecting on a number of completed projects, the authors identify areas in which both students and organisations have benefited as well as some of the difficulties associated with this type of work. They conclude their paper with some constructive solutions to both minimise the stress and uncertainty for student researchers and maximise opportunities for contributing to research based practice for commissioning organisations.
The books reviewed in our final section cover such varied themes as risk, childhood prostitution, parenting education, researching children’s perspectives, privatisation and social policy, institutional abuse, local government reorganisation and the changing role of social care.
We hope you enjoy this edition of Research Policy and Planning.
Carol Lupton and Lesley Saunders