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Priorities for Adult Social Work Research

Results from the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership for adult social work

Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults (England)

One of my long-standing priorities since taking up my post as Chief Social Worker has been to encourage the development and use of research and evidence to improve social work practice and outcomes for the people we serve. Understanding the approaches and interventions which work best and why, is essential if we are to work effectively with people to ensure they and their carers experience high quality care and support, centred on their needs and aspirations.

For social workers and other regulated professionals, having access to quality research evidence is increasingly important, to support decision-making and challenge ingrained thinking and taken-for-granted ways of working. I am pleased that the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is helping raise the profile of social work research and evidence, helping inform practice. And 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 coming into contract with social care, the decisions about what gets researched in the first place can often seem remote and disconnected from the reality of their lives and the things that matter to them.

That is why this report setting out the priorities for adult social work research, is so welcome.

The priorities were developed using the long-established James Lind Alliance (JLA), approach, which puts the people who use services, their carers and practitioners at the heart of deciding the questions research should answer. Over 1,150 people were involved in helping us agree the final top Ten which covers a diverse range of issues and themes for adult social work.

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 that the JLA approach has been used in a non-health related area.

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 look forward to working with you as we start the process of turning these questions into research projects which can make a real difference to the quality of care and support that people receive.