Sustainable care network announced to identify solutions to UK social care crisisImage of people in a care home

A new research project led by academics at the University of Sheffield will examine potential sustainable solutions to the ongoing crisis within the UK’s social care system.

With an ageing population, shortages of staff in home and residential care, and growing reliance on unpaid carers, the question of how to resource and deliver social care is a critical issue facing society today.

The Sustainable Care Research Programme, led by Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Sociological Studies, and bringing together academics from seven universities, will take an international approach to identifying solutions to this crisis.

Working with an extended network of international academic partners in 15 other countries, the project will take a future-oriented and internationally comparative look at current approaches to the care needs of adults living at home with chronic health problems or disabilities, examining these in the context of care systems, care work and care relationships.

Researchers will investigate how these approaches can be made economically and socially sustainable while still delivering positive outcomes for care users, for families and carers and for care workers.

Professor Sue Yeandle said: "The Sustainable Care Research Programme brings together leading researchers in a wide range of fields, including sociology and management, political studies, and health, employment and will provide a strong evidence base to move the UK’s social care system in a more sustainable direction.

The crisis in social care is one of the most important issues of our time. It is vital that going forward policymakers have strong and robust evidence when making decisions on how to ensure the social care system is sustainable and works for all who require it.

Professor craig watkins, university of sheffield

"Our programme will fill knowledge gaps, contribute new theoretical ideas and data analyses, and provide useful, accurate evidence to inform care planning, provision and experience. It will develop and critically engage with policy and theoretical debates about all aspects of social care."

The network, which has been awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Large Grant funding valued at £2.5 million, to which UK and international partners are contributing additional resources, will examine experience in the UK’s four national systems of social care.

It will look at how emerging technologies such as apps and smart assistive devices could transform social care. It will also examine the role of migrant care workers in the UK and internationally, and how innovative home care models could help the sector become more sustainable.

The findings of the project will feed directly into the charity, Carers UK, and help influence policy at local, national and international levels to improve how care is planned, resourced, organised and delivered.

Professor Craig Watkins, Director of Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences, said: "The crisis in social care is one of the most important issues of our time. It is vital that going forward policymakers have strong and robust evidence when making decisions on how to ensure the social care system is sustainable and works for all who require it.

"It is fantastic that Professor Yeandle and colleagues here at Sheffield will be leading on the Sustainable Care Research Programme and International Network, which will play a key role in influencing the direction of the UK’s social care system in years to come."

The Sustainable Care Research Programme is one of five new innovative multidisciplinary projects announced by the ESRC this week.

Professor Jane Elliott, ESRC Chief Executive, said: “Society faces real challenges in the coming years. Not only are we entering extensive negotiations on Brexit but we also need to address the pressures on our health and social care systems, and continued inequalities across the UK.

"These projects are all directly relevant to the challenges ahead and demonstrate the important contribution that social science can make to society and the individuals within it."


Additional information

The Sustainable Care Research Programme brings together seven universities: the University of Sheffield and the universities of Birmingham; Kings College London; Swansea; Stirling; Ulster; and Alberta (Canada).

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research.

ESRC-funded research informs policy makers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the government.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.