Since I took up the post of the Chief Social Worker for Adults in England, one of my enduring priorities has been to encourage the development and use of research and evidence to inform social work practice and improve life outcomes for the people we serve.
Understanding which approaches and interventions work best and gathering the evidence to support them is essential. Why must we do this? To sustain and improve social work as part of the wider social care and health offer. This is how we will continue to deliver high quality care and support, centred on people's strengths, needs and aspirations.
For social workers and other social care professionals, having access to quality research and evidence is increasingly important. It supports decision making and challenges ingrained thinking and ways of working that are often taken for granted.
I am really pleased that the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is helping raise the profile and investing in social care and social work research.
The social care sector must be recognised and valued for the difference it makes to people’s lives and be put on an equal footing with health. Only then can we ensure the whole system really does achieve integrated outcomes for people, making the best use of all available approaches and resources.
The sector itself is recognising this imperative. The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) which underpins all social workers’ professional development has been updated to include greater reference to the importance of research and evidence-informed practice.
However, for people in contact with social care services, decisions made about which areas to research can often seem remote and disconnected from the reality of their lives and the things that matter to them.
That is why I am so pleased to welcome the publication of the James Lind Alliance (JLA) report setting out the priorities for adult social work research.
Developed using their tried and tested methods, this is the first time anywhere in the world that this kind of research prioritisation has happened for adult social work and the first time the JLA approach has been used in a non-health related area
Their approach is unique in fully involving people who use services, their carers and practitioners in identifying the questions that social work research should answer. Over 1150 people were involved in narrowing the field to a final top 10, which covers a diverse range of issues and themes for adult social work.
This report is a critical first step in helping us to make sure that future research answers the questions that are important, both to social workers and to those who are or have been in contact with them.
I would ask all of you to read and share this report and to consider developing the research capability in your organisations and partnerships. More than that, I want you to encourage people and their carers, social workers and academics, to come together to shape and use research to make a real difference to people’s lives.
I look forward to working with you as we start the process of turning these questions into research. This is our opportunity to transform the quality of social work practice and social care support for the many individuals and families we strive to help.