ARC East of England invited social care colleagues, researchers and members of the public to our Developing Research in Social Care event to hear about the latest social care research opportunities from across the region and the UK.
On Wednesday 26 July, ARC East of England brought together healthcare colleagues, researchers, third sector organisations, and social care colleagues from a variety of councils across our region, including Thurrock Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council, Peterborough City Council, and Cambridgeshire County Council.
This event shared how we can develop and incorporate research into social care settings and the benefits of doing so. The presentations focused on different social care research opportunities and we heard from people who have experienced the programmes.
Professor Eneida Mioshi, Deputy Director and Academic Career Development Lead at ARC East of England, welcomed the attendees to the event. There were five talks which were then followed by Q&As.
"We need to ensure that research becomes a regular feature of jobs in social care settings. To achieve this, we need to support and direct people to the newest opportunities to develop their research skills. Offering a research event targeted at people working in social care settings is an important first step for everyone to familiarise with current schemes."
NIHR social care opportunities
In the first talk, Charlotte Minter, Senior Programme Manager, NIHR Coordinating Centre, discussed current National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) social care research opportunities. This included NIHR Local Authority Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (LA SPARC), which enables individuals in local authority settings and NIHR Academy Members to develop a bespoke placement that develops skills and capabilities. This placement bridges the gap between research in local authorities and NIHR by co-creating research that will impact and align with current social care practice.
Top tips on how to make a competitive fellowship application
Charlotte Minter led the second talk where she shared some tips on how to make a competitive fellowship application. Tips included:
- Always prepare your application in advance – it is never too early to prepare.
- Write clearly and accessibly – it shows you have really thought about your project.
- Know the process and the remit - check your eligibility for the schemes and read all the guidance available. It is recommended to familiar yourself with the online application system.
- Show the importance of your work and why NIHR should invest in you and your work – for a good fellowship application, you need to focus on: Person, Project, Place/Training, Public and Patient Involvement and Engagement (PPIE).
- Think about who should be linked to your project - your project needs to be informed by appropriate PPIE and relevant supervisors who are suitable for your project's methodology and research focus.
- Consider your career development - how will the scheme support your career development plan, what path are you on and where do you want to go?
- Don’t only focus on technical skills - think about other skills you need to progress in your career e.g. communication, presentation and leadership skills.
- Engage with people – including appropriate PPIE, potential supervisors and people who have experienced the scheme. You can do this through NIHR’s peer support online network. This is a space for researchers in local authority settings to share knowledge and experience on fellowship applications.
- Explore NIHR blogs - there are blogs by members of the Selection Committee who share their insight into a winning interview.
"Seek advice from experts in PPIE and the subject area. It is important to contact people, such as previous award winners, who provide great insight, pick people’s brains, and find out about the awards. People are always willing to help."
My experience of the Local Authority SPARC Scheme
The third talk was from Dr Bryony Porter, Public and Community Involvement, Engagement and Participation Lead, ARC East of England, who shared her experience of NIHR Local Authority SPARC Scheme.
Bryony was a researcher in the Mental Health Over the Life Course research theme and an NIHR Academy Member with a research focus on student and healthcare professionals mental health and wellbeing. This interest led to Bryony expanding her research into social care settings through the Local Authority SPARC scheme at Norfolk County Council. Bryony’s placement focused on bringing together a team of key stakeholders to develop funding plans to support a 12-month pilot for clinically facilitated group supervision for social workers.
Bryony encouraged individuals to tailor their applications to what they want to achieve from the placement opportunity, the expected impact of their research on local authority settings, and what the markers of success will be for this placement. Bryony also emphasised the importance of applicants considering their career development plans, such as what training will get them to where they want to be in the future.
Bryony reflected that from the placement she was able to understand the experiences, demands, and pressures of social workers and experienced first-hand the differences between different organisations.
"I found the LA SPARC a really great steppingstone, which led to a lot of further collaboration and working together…by bringing those people together, momentum started to build and there was a real commitment and drive to continue the work together. I’m really pleased that we were able to do that.”
ARC East of England Fellowship programme
The fourth presentation was led by our Academic Career Development Lead, Professor Eneida Mioshi. Professor Mioshi discussed ARC East of England programme. Since 2011, ARC East of England have awarded 139 fellowships.
ARC East of England Fellowship offers social and health care practitioners, clinicians, voluntary sector staff, and NHS managers across the East of England an opportunity to develop skills and an understanding of research or research implementation methodologies. The programme includes teaching sessions, peer support through Action Learning Groups, and specialist supervision.
In these programmes, ARC East of England funds a fellow for one day a week for one year via backfill £12,500 (maximum) to undertake a research or implementation project.
“A very important aspect of the ARC East of England Fellowship programme is that there is no expectation that, at the end of the fellowship, the fellow must do a PhD. It could be simply want to learn new skills or understand how to utilise research in your job and then continue in your role.”
My experience of ARC East of England Fellowship programme
The final talk was from Deborah Sheppard, Programme Manager, Children Looked After & Carers Leavers’ Mental Health, Hertfordshire County Council, on her experiences of ARC East of England Fellowship programme.
Deborah explained that she was not seeking a career in research, but she saw the Fellowship scheme as an opportunity to evaluate and implement a trauma-informed Community of Practice in social care. Deborah believed that being able to apply research methodologies during the evaluation would benefit the experiences of children, young people and their families in the service.
Deborah praised her supervisor, who facilitated access to reading sessions with researchers to discuss academic papers and discussions with researchers about practice-based research in addition to the once-a-month ARC learning sessions and action learning sets. Deborah said, "I really felt like I was a part of a network of support and encouragement. I felt a real benefit was exposure to a number of really interesting studies and generous people."
Deborah called for local authorities to consider and embed research approaches and evidence in practice when developing plans for social care services. This drive has led Deborah to establish a reading group with clinicians in her local mental health services to discuss new research regarding children's mental health and consider how to respond to findings and implement change in local authorities.
“[From the ARC East of England fellowship] I now feel confident to take part in policy and practice conversations, both within my own local system or at national events…I know that I can draw on my critical skills and knowledge of other bodies of research and bring that into these conversations...which makes a real difference.”
For more information about research opportunities in social care, contact Professor Eneida Mioshi, ARC East of England's Academic Career Development Lead: email@example.com.
Find out more:
- Slides: ‘NIHR social care opportunities’ and ‘Top tips on how to make a competitive fellowship application', Charlotte Minter
- Slides: ‘My experience of the Local Authority SPARC scheme’, Dr Bryony Porter
- More information about ARC East of England Fellowship programme
- Slides: 'My experience of ARC East of England Fellowship programme’, Deborah Sheppard