Social care research centre: new £10 million funding award for University of Sheffield

£10 million in funding has been awarded to the University of Sheffield’s Centre for International Research on Care, Labour & Equalities for a new ‘Centre for Care’.

SPERI - Circle Centre for Care

The University of Sheffield will lead a collaboration of five universities, high profile care sector partners and international research teams in this new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) research centre. The Centre which will address the urgent need for accessible research and evidence on social care.

As a Co-Investigator in the new Centre, Tom Hunt will be part of a research group whose research will focus on the workforce that delivers adult and children’s social care. The group will investigate the impact of policy changes on the care workforce and the impacts from changes in how care is provided, including the growing use of technology. Tom’s research will specifically focus on efforts to raise the working conditions, profile and status of care workers, who are a significant and growing proportion of the overall UK labour force. The group will engage with longstanding concerns in the UK about how effective, equitable care services can be delivered to diverse groups of people and by a workforce that is currently stretched, low-paid and under-valued and in which some workers experience exploitation and profound inequalities.

The prestigious award is part of the ESRC’s programme of six new research centres that can deliver real societal and economic impact, and provide robust research evidence to support government and decision-making. The ESRC’s award for the Centre for Care includes £1.5 million provided through its partnership with the National Institute for Health Research. In its first five years, the collaborating universities will also jointly contribute an additional £1.2 million to the new centre.

The collaboration includes the Universities of Birmingham, Kent and Oxford, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Office for National Statistics, and charities Carers UK, the National Children’s Bureau and the Social Care Institute for Excellence. They will work together with academics, sector partners, agencies, public policy experts and people who need or provide care across the UK and internationally.

Principal Investigator and Centre for Care Director Professor Sue Yeandle, in the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences, says: “The Centre for Care will be a pivotal hub for researchers and practitioners across the social care sector. Based in Sheffield, it will develop new evidence on providing and delivering the care needed by people of all ages who need support in daily life.

“Care is integral to living well throughout life. The unpaid care provided daily by millions of  families and friends; the services provided in people’s homes, neighbourhoods and communities; and the support offered in residential settings for people with complex needs  are all within the new Centre’s remit. It is vital that we understand how our society’s arrangements for care can provide the best support possible to all who need it as they negotiate changes and challenges in their lives.”

Fully operational from March 2022, the centre will bring together some 50 scholars: leading experts on care in multiple disciplines; 12 new post-doctoral researchers, based in the five universities; a large group of PhD students, including six commencing new studies of care in autumn 2022. Advised by a board of leading and diverse experts on care, the centre will produce major new studies of care and build a new generation of care specialists for the years ahead.

Find out more about the new Centre for Care here

In October 2021 CIRCLE published a paper by Tom Hunt entitled ‘Under-paid and under-valued: assessing mandatory vaccination for care home workers in England’. The paper examines the impact of introducing mandatory vaccination and why it is forecast to exacerbate chronic staff shortages in care and considers what its introduction says about attitudes to care home workers and care work. You can watch a video about the paper and read a blog by Tom about it here.