Yesterday I headed to York again, but this time for a conference. The Curiosity Partnership is a 4 year project to bring local authorities to work with researchers in developing social care evidence based services. I was quite surprised when asked to come here to find out that local authorities don’t work with researchers in developing social care evidence based services. Researchers are they to prove something doesn’t work as well as does.
I’d been asked by Mark Wilberforce, I’m part of his research team on the HOPE project at York Uni along with David, a former carer to his wife, and Laura Haviland, who is the Network co-ordinator for the Curiosity Partnership project from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work.
They’d asked me to talk about my experience of being involved in research, why it was important to include those with lived experience in any research and the benefits of doing just this.
I woke well before 4am and was toying with the idea of a quick early morning trundle but thought it best not to as I’d only get distracted and want to stay out 🥴 My taxi arrived early so I wasn’t whittling and worrying if it would turn up. The sky was glorious as we travelled through the village by the pond. I opened my mouth to ask the driver to stop as I saw Mr Heron on Teresa’s log, but I looked at my hands and realised I didn’t have my camera so closed it again 🤣….
I had twenty minutes before the bus was due so walked around to pass the time. St Marys looking lovely against the blue sky
As the bus pulled in, I sat downstairs for a change as I had my suitcase with a few books in case anyone wanted to buy one. Even though it was early, there was a queue of traffic as we reached the Westwood as all the cows had decided to cross from one side of the road to the other 🤣
I’d been typing all the way to York, so I was so surprised to see that we’d arrived as I looked up from my screen. I decided to get off in town and amble through to the hotel that was to be our venue for the day. I got distracted by a talented young busker playing a clarinet, I think! Then the rowers on the river..
Professor Yvonne Birts – the Curiosity Partnership Director and from York Uni greeted me inside the hotel, as did Laura and Mark. I was soon sat having a cuppa before settling myself at one of the tables.
Prof Yvonne welcome everyone and she started off the day by highlighting that for some, research is very new.
In 2019 the NHIR they released a call for ideas and the Curiosity Partnership was born. The slide of ‘what’s the story ‘ said it all
Yvonne then played a video saying the government had ploughed money in NHS health research but little into social care. It’s this that we now need to address.
“Through research, creating a social care system the public can have confidence in…”
Work with us to create an evidence based system that works with our strengths…curious?…….is how it ended.
We had to introduce ourselves to our table neighbours while the techy bit of connecting to zoom for the first speaker was being faffed with 🤣 I was sat next to someone from Hull Uni from the business school who is part the Curiosity team.
Wendy Lowder joined us on zoom. I knew the name but couldn’t think where from….She was here to share her thoughts on the landscape of adult social care. She’s spent the last 19 years in local authority in adult social care. She was blown away by local ideas to bring about local change in deprived areas. Through Covid we had wonderful community support, people stepped forward, it was tough before, tough during and even harder to now recover in many communities but the ’community knowledge, the knowledge of ordinary people’ is still untapped.
She spoke of the long waits for social care assessments and the shortage of care workers. The upheaval this causes to family is unimaginable to many of us. Uncompetitive pay makes it difficult to recruit staff into these poorly recognised roles. There have also been many false starts and poor decisions made by successive governments to grasp the mantel and tackle social care head on.
Greater partnerships with the local community are the key to the success there is in Barnsley where Wendy works..
“What matters to you in your neighbourhood?” they ask.
She asked everyone to reflect on the language the audience use in their everyday lives. “Challenging behaviour”, “Hard to reach people” are words that send her into despair. It’s simply about people for people, reducing beaurocracy, asking people.
She spoke of her mum, 94 years young, who they help live at home. But it’s not just family, it’s the neighbour who mows the lawn, another neighbour who cooks the odd meal and so many others who help her mum to live her life at home where she want to be. It’s not just about Adult social care, it’s about the neighbourhood, the community. People helping people.
I found it hard to keep up with all the words Wendy was saying and type at the same time, but her words were wonderful, her words were encouraging, her words work creative but most of all, for me, a future recipient of care, her words gave me hope.
Research is important to us as a community – finding out what works what doesn’t, can help us to make good decisions. If you as an authority are asking “how can we provide/improve/ etc……” then research is the answer.
She ended with a slide of her mum and the wonderful words of the social care future team…..that’s where I knew her from! and the words next to her mum are the words that made me want to work with the social care future team…
I asked her “what do you think is the number 1 priority?” A hard question obviously, but Wendy answered it perfectly. The priority is to get community of practice to bridge research and engage stakeholders and citizens in research – the lived experience is key to the outcomes of this 4 year partnership so we have to get that right first.
It was me next – I spoke of the research I’d been involved in that had been a good experience along with some that had been a bad experience.
I ended by saying:
“The social care system is failing us at the moment and you’re pouring your money down a big gaping hole. How much better it would be to have the evidence first before opening your purse strings.”
Break time……for a cuppa and cookies. Many people up to ask questions, one young researcher about how to persuade people to work with her……I simply said:
“Invite them to work with you as you need their lived experience expertise that you don’t have. There expertise is the missing link in their team. “
I must have drifted off as the final speaker started as I suddenly came round and didn’t know who he was or what he was talking about 🙈…..
Then he put a slide up
He said we people need to connect better – they need to know what each other does. What prevents them collaborating? Capacity – they’re not being given the time in their day job; there’s a massive time lag in funding, the lag is really long and there’s often a high staff turnover so once funding is there, different people are in the roles; after the funding ends the researchers have no capacity to work, no money.
Also if they did find the evidence, is there a thirst to implement – change is the hard bit. There’s a knowledge gap between theory and practice…..again, bring the academics in at the beginning not asked to evaluate something that exists. Loads of stuff is going on but how do you share the knowledge?
We have a skills gap – how do you separate the good research from the good quality and bad quality evidence. They need to present their finding in a more accessible way. Academic papers are required to be written in academic language that organisations won’t relate to.
Identifying skills across other disciplines that would help. At the moment different disciplines work in silos, when in fact they could be of use to each other.
The final man – from South America – very likeable as he wanted to walk about on the stage instead 🤣 he also made it fun…..what are the top 5 priorities
The priorities weren’t in any order …he kept putting his glasses on when talking academic language and taking them off for normal Language 🤣 His most important part of ‘place’ was
Just before lunch it was break out sessions and I stayed in the main hall for the “existing research” introduced by Mark Wilberforce. Emma was up first describing her experience of becoming a researcher. When she finishes her pre doctorate fellowship, she will go back to her normal job of managing a team in Direct payments. She thought research was just for academics. Her Pre-doctoral Fellowship has opened up her eyes and given her opportunity to go back and work in her own role in a much better, more informed way…the moment you realise your research is contributing to knowledge into new insights into direct payments practice it makes all the study worthwhile.
One of her participants thanked her for allowing her to share her voice and that made her realise
The next, Helen Weatherly from York Uni, spoke about the economic research into social care. ….trying to make economics people friendly in their language. Showing how ‘value for money’ ‘best way to spread the cost’ ‘ what do we achieve by spending the money’ . She stressed that economics is not about finding the cheaper option. It might be an expensive service, but the outcome far outstrips the cost and makes it worth the investment.
I was tending to drift off at this point. It was very hot in the room so I was now starting to wither a tad so not taking much in….🥴
The final speaker before lunch was an occupational therapist researcher, but I couldn’t follow his talk – I think because I was hot and tired as I love Occupational Therapists.
While everyone went to lunch, I sat in the quiet catching up with emails and typing and then quietly disappeared before everyone came back again……..a wonderful day of hope for the future of social care – lets hope all this talk will turn into action…..