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Forging new relationships?

Despite the difficulties associated with promoting Research Mindedness, various developments at national and local levels represent new links between research and practice. These contribute to sometimes heated debates about what constitutes evidence for practice. This process is part of a larger debate about the nature of social work as a professional activity and academic discipline as exemplified in the ESRC sponsored seminar series, Theorising Social Work Research.

Many policy initiatives are now informed to a varying degree by research. Examples include:

  • A strategic approach to research dissemination (NICE, SCIE).
  • Research programmes which focus research in one area albeit supporting a wide range of research projects with diverse research methodologies (ESRC Research Programme on Social Stability and Exclusion).
  • Policy initiatives informed by research (Valuing People A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century).
  • A sharper focus on mapping need, practice outcomes and evaluating services and interventions (Sure Start; implementation of Quality Protects).
  • The establishment of consortia to ensure easier access to research findings and to involve practitioners in research agendas. (Research in Practice; Making Research Count; Centre for Evidence-Based Social Services).
  • At a local and individual level NVQ, Social Work Degree, PQ and Advanced level candidates are demonstrating creative engagement with research projects and findings to develop policy and practice for the benefit of service users.
Case example

Gerry, a training officer with a Social Services Department, took a Masters in Professional Studies and for his dissertation undertook research in to the involvement of service users in the assessment of students on placement as part of their DipSW programme. His research:

  • Helped him with the attainment of an academic award and provided evidence towards an AA award
  • Promoted the importance of consumer participation in research and policy development
  • Contributed to the revision of policies and procedures within the DipSW programme.

Inevitably, discussion about Research Mindedness in social work cannot be separated from its social and political context. Keeping in mind the question 'Who is the research for?' is central to ensuring that the interests of service users are recognised. At a time of continuing change in social work and social care, it is imperative that Research Mindedness is allied with explicit values of social justice and inclusion.

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