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Users of adult social care have a right to expect services to be based on the best evidence. Research should advise services about what helps people best, and what people say they want and need.
Social care providers should also get value for money. Research on how to make this happen is limited and of mixed quality. Our key idea is that when researchers move out of universities and into practice settings, they and the service providers and service users and carers can learn from each other. Placing researchers in social care organisations and bringing staff, service users and researchers together will help identify important areas for research and make change happen more quickly, to make a difference to the lives of service users and carers. It is important for everyone using services that there is good research about how well they work, but at present this is limited and more is needed. We want to test a new way of making this happen.
We have secured funding for an extension and this project will now run until 31 October 2024. 

What we want to do

We will try a new idea: setting up research teams inside social care organisations. We will develop a network of ‘embedded’ research teams. Each team will have a social worker trained to carry out research and an experienced researcher, based in the social care organisation. Senior managers, university staff and other research specialists will form part of a wider team to support them, with service users and carers who wish to become involved.
Researchers will learn about service delivery, and practitioners will learn how to do research to help improve services. Embedded teams will also build relationships between practitioners and people receiving services. The networks will produce research that will enable services to improve what they do.

How we will do this

Embedded teams will use a mix of approaches, including training practitioners so they understand better how to improve what they do through research. They will carry out two research projects to help improve services, and find out how well this approach works. Service users and carers will be an important part of this process. Meaningful involvement with a wide diverse group of experts is an integral feature of the project. We will offer training in research and involvement methods to experts by experience and learn from each other. Our co-applicants worked with experts by experience for many years and our team includes an experienced service user researcher who will be an ‘independent critical friend’. We will actively involve people who use support and services or are carers both when doing the research and sharing our learning. Evaluating our project – finding out how it is working and finding things that are not working as well as we hoped – is an important part of this study to test out our ideas.

Reaching different people with our work 

The research networks will work together to:
  • Co-produce accessible research reports, service evaluations, publications and other outputs, which will be shared regionally and nationally;
  • Rapidly implement improvements based on research to improve services;
  • Provide insight into service problems, leading to research tailored to local need.

Developing future services

This is a ‘proof of concept’ study, meaning we are going to test these ideas and report back to help other organisations decide whether this approach could help them understand issues in their area and support service users and carers in their area better.

Watch our latest workshop

Catch up on the first meeting of the South West Practitioner Network, which took place on 24 January 2024.

Project Leads/Principal Investigators


Research support

Community care - image courtesy of Shutterstock

Contact Peninsula Adult Social Care Research Collaborative (PARC)

University of Plymouth, Faculty of Health Room N14, ITTC Building Plymouth Science Park Derriford, Plymouth, Devon PL6 8BX