Developing a better understanding of the challenges of building capacity to undertake social care research in the Wessex region

Dr Andy Pulman
Professor Lee-Ann Fenge
16th June 2023

In 2022, Bournemouth University was commissioned to undertake a study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to develop a better understanding of the challenges of building capacity to undertake social care research in the Wessex region (Dorset, South Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight) and the opportunities for building research engagement and capacity.

Two groups of participants were recruited. The first group (n=22) were practitioners working in social care within the Wessex region. The second group (n=9) were Higher Education Institute (HEI) staff – academics and researchers – working within the Wessex region.

Data was collected between February and September 2022. Two reports were produced from this study. The first focused on the enablers and barriers facing practitioners in Wessex from the perspective of current practitioners and HEI staff who regularly interacted with, or had previously worked within the sector.

Our research noted that there were several areas where resources could be focused on helping to improve the current picture.

  • Contact – In an incredibly busy and stressful environment practitioners might not be in receipt of information or opportunities which are sent through traditional internal email systems or reside on static websites. These messages do not always get through to reach them.
  • Encouragement – LAs and senior management need to be encouraged to view research as an essential integral part of the social care sector. This includes supporting pathways for career development, allowing time for research and promoting embedding research into practice.
  • Support (Applications) – Practitioners interested in Fellowship/LA SPARC applications would benefit from more support before and during the process.
  • Support (General) – Research positive practitioners exist at all levels in LAs and would benefit from more support and opportunities to learn about or engage with research.
  • Improvements to practitioner research training – Practitioners who had not been sufficiently educated about research might not have an appreciation of its value to their practice and lack knowledge, skills and confidence to conduct research in practice.

Further viewing:

Pulman, A. 2023. NIHR ARC Wessex Social Care Lunchtime Seminar #2 – Building Research Capacity in Social Care.

Further reading:

Pulman, A. and Fenge, L.-A., 2023. Building Capacity for Social Care Research—Individual-Level and Organisational Barriers Facing Practitioners. The British Journal of Social Work.

Pulman, A. and Fenge, L.-A., 2023. Building Capacity for Social Care Research – Ways of Improving Research Skills for Social Workers. Social Work Education.

Meet the author(s)

Dr Andy Pulman

Post Doctoral Researcher
I have been active in the field of qualitative research since starting my on my part-time PhD in 2008. Working across both technology and health and social care fields since then, I have accumulated a wide range of research skills concerning devising and implementing mobile technological innovations in healthcare.
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Professor Lee-Ann Fenge

Director of the Centre for Seldom Heard Voices
Lee-Ann is Professor of Social Care in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences. She is a Registered Social Worker and has always been committed to advancing the professional evidence base of social care practitioners.
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