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Warwick researchers win two of 12 new NIHR social care research grants

Ministerial Quote

Dr Louise Denne, Senior Research Fellow at Warwick University’s Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) and Professor Jeremy Dale from Warwick Medical School have each been awarded one of 12 new research grants from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for their social care projects.

  • Dr Denne and her team have developed READ-IT, a programme based around an online reading package with additional support which teaches early reading skills to adults with intellectual disabilities. Reading skills are one of the keys to independence and a better quality of life - for example by being able to carry out everyday activities without the help of someone else. The NIHR funding will enable them to design a larger study to evaluate the programme.
  • Professor Dale is researching an online tool called Care Companion, which is designed to help informal carers to cope with their caring responsibilities and get support and resources when they need them. Many older people depend on 'informal' carers who aren't health professionals, and these carers don't always get the support they need. The tool is already being used in Warwickshire. The NIHR-funded research will find the best way to make this tool available to more carers, and show how it could help improve the health and social care system in England.

The grants are two of 12 totalling £2.5 million, supporting new research into social care, as part of NIHR’s commitment to improving social care through high quality evidence and building capacity for research in this field.

Commenting on the award, Dr Denne said: “It is exciting to be taking part in this – the first NIHR social care funding call. Teaching skills to adults with intellectual disability is an under-researched area and has the potential to increase quality of life for the individual as well as their families.”

Professor Dale said: “We are delighted to have been included for funding under the first NIHR social care funding call. Our study is focused on helping informal carers to remain resilient and cope more effectively, and so improve the quality of lives of all the people that they care for. Importantly, this should also help lessen the burden on overstretched NHS and social care services.”

The new funding was driven by the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme's 2018 funding call for research focused on adult social care, which received a great response from the research community.

Following this successful call, the NIHR will be investing in future social care research with annual funding calls via the RfPB programme, under the banner of Research for Social Care (RfSC). The RfSC call, planned to launch in September, will have a budget of £3m.  

The funding is part of NIHR’s ongoing efforts to build and improve social care research in England. In November 2018 the organisation announced that it will fund a third phase of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, with just under £20 million committed over 5 years. This includes £1.8 million specifically targeted on building research capacity, with PhDs, career development awards and internships planned.

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “Social care research has the power to transform people's lives by building our knowledge of which types of care best support our health, happiness and independence. The NIHR's investment in innovation will help create a sustainable social care system for the benefit of everyone - from older people to unpaid carers to those with learning disabilities of any age.

"There are some fantastic projects already underway, and I'm looking forward to seeing what brilliant ideas are brought forward in this annual funding call, which will significantly boost social care research in this country."

Professor Martin Knapp, Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research, said: “NIHR is investing in research skills and researchers, as well as working with local authorities and social care providers. As the leading funder of social care research, NIHR has an enormous amount to contribute.”

A selection of the newly-funded projects are summarised below.

Stacey Rand, University of Kent - £150,000

Mrs Rand's research is helping to find out what types of services in the community are most useful in helping people with dementia to live in their own homes. The researchers are testing a questionnaire they've designed that carers can fill out on behalf of a close friend or relative with dementia, to help understand how different services affect their lives, as well as a version for carers themselves. They want to make sure the questionnaires are easy to complete and collect the right information - helping to understand which services help these people the most.

Professor Chris Hatton, University of Lancaster - £350,000

Adults with learning disabilities often live in residential facilities or in supported living. Many want to be more independent, but at the moment it's not clear what support is most cost-effective and which is best for these adults. Professor Hatton wants to find out more about the quality and costs of these two types of support, by talking to adults with learning disabilities and their families and working with different service providers in England. The research aims to gather information and evidence to help healthcare commissioners provide services, and help families lobby for the best support.

Dr Phillip Whitehead, Northumbria University Newcastle - £150,000

Some people who need care at home may need more than one person to help them move around - for example getting out of bed and into a chair. 'Double-handed' homecare packages offer this help, but there isn't much evidence on how well this care works or how it should be monitored and reviewed, for example when it's put in place after an accident or illness. Dr Whitehead's research is looking at the best way to review this type of care, so that councils can make sure they are providing cost-effective support for people living at home.

Notes to editors

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.

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