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Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

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The University of Southampton was awarded a four-year ESRC IAA to support a diverse range of knowledge exchange and engagement activities until March 2023.

The University of Southampton has applied for a further four-year ESRC IAA award to run from 2023 – 2028. The University has held successive IAAs and is currently awaiting the outcome of deliberations by ESRC (decision expected sometime in autumn 2022).

The overall aim of the ESRC IAA is to maximise the practical application of Southampton’s social science research outputs. The funding will be used to support the University with its continued contribution to society and the economy at a regional, national and international level, addressing the Grand Challenges of the Industrial Strategy, Global Challenges, ESRC and UKRI research priorities, in the following key ways:

Visit our Festival of Social Science webpage, we fund events for this ESRC festival through our ESRC IAA award.

Read more about a research project which benefitted from the ESRC IAA award here.

Improving communications with people with learning disabilities

Southampton researchers are helping ensure that day service clients with learning difficulties can easily access and understand information outlining the transition of day services by involving them in the production of the communication materials.

 Academics from Education and Geography at Southampton have used Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account funding to work with members of People First Dorset (PFD) on the development and design of new materials that support people with learning disabilities after the demise of day services.

 Principal Investigator Professor Melanie Nind said: “We wanted to ensure that people with learning disabilities were fully involved in developing resources to disseminate the findings and key messages of the Reclaiming Social Care Study which explored the ways people with learning disabilities and their allies are managing change in their social care, support and learning.”

 Advisory groups have indicated that people with learning difficulties contribute most when the communications are presented in ways that they and their allies can understand.

 “So, we collaborated with people with learning disabilities from PFD to ensure that the materials we were producing could be easily accessed and meet their needs,” added Melanie.

 The IAA funding enabled the University and PFD partnership to:

·       create an Easy Read information sheet that was distributed among PDF members for their feedback;

·       set up a WhatsApp group as the main communication tool among Southampton academics and the PDF members;

·       run online Zoom workshops to introduce the project, generate ideas, focus on content, create prototype designs and test feedback;

·       explore the best ways to get the activities and materials into wider use using the website and printed materials which were distributed to 60 organisations including self-advocacy and advocacy groups, support and training organisations, community interest companies, volunteer centres and national voluntary organisations.

 The project has informed new work in which Melanie has secured a University of Southampton Public Engagement with Research unit (PERu) grant to fund a collaboration between the University, PFD and two arts practitioners. This is on enhancing the involvement of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their families in self-advocacy and research.

The IAA team has also held a webinar Re-Connecting Our Lives: How people with learning disabilities are getting back to building community lives in the wake of the pandemic.

Improving the quality of life for people in care

Access to everyday objects is improving the quality of life for older people in long-term care, thanks to an innovative online training project that has been developed by Health Sciences researchers at Southampton.

Southampton Research Fellow and former PhD student Dr Kellyn Lee and Professor of Older People’s Care Jackie Bridges collaborated with BrendonCare, a registered charity with care homes across the south of England, to devise the online Material Citizenship Skills Enhancement Programme to make care home workers more aware of the benefits of everyday objects in person-centred care.

The programme, which was funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding, has already been adopted by two Brendoncare care homes with a view to being rolled out later in 2022, and is due to be rolled out to Hallmark Care Homes’ 20 care homes in England and Wales from Spring 2022.

Being able to use familiar objects to carry out everyday tasks is known to be beneficial to older people in care, particularly those with dementia, but the reality is that it is often not experienced by those living in care.

Kellyn said: “Having control over their belongings and access to functional objects to carry out everyday tasks increases a person’s independence, maintains their identity and influences the perception of others. However, people living in care homes regularly have to adjust their day-to-day activities to fit the task-orientated routines of care home life.

“My PhD showed that people with dementia were often moved directly from hospital to a care home without being able to return home to collect belongings, had little control over their possessions once they were in a care home, were unable to use functional objects without a formal risk assessment taking place, and were excluded from decision-making about their belongings.

“I wanted to address this lack of control by producing a framework that focused on the importance of object-person relations in everyday activities.”

The IAA funding enabled Kellyn and Jackie to:

  • develop the Material Citizenship Skills Enhancement Programme;
  • deliver it to staff at Brendoncare Knightwood, in Chandler’s Ford;
  • conduct follow-up interviews with staff who attended the programme;
  • identify a need to develop a second session to support the documentation of material citizenship in practice;
  • secure further NIHR Applied Research Collaborative Wessex funding to roll out the programme to other care homes;
  • identify and include a second industry partner, Hallmark Care Homes, in the rollout.

Charlotte Chiutare, manager of Brendoncare Knightwood was one of the first people to participate in the course and credits the training with improving their practice and making care home staff feel good about their work and the difference they can make.

“It has definitely made life better for people in our care. One of our residents really wanted to polish her own room with a particular polish. Initially this was seen as unnecessary as the cleaning staff were there to clean, but now we’ve got her the polish she wanted, she polishes her room and it makes it smell like home.

“Material Citizenship has given us more of a can-do attitude, instead of just thinking about the risks, we think around it. It’s a change of mindset.”

Since the IAA funding, Kellyn has gone on to set up social enterprise Wiser Health and Social Care. The team has also produced two videos (watch video one and video two) and the Material Citizenship programme is being included in the NHS Somerset Dementia Wellbeing model.

Assessing the benefits of Parliamentary PhD Fellowships

A review of the impact and value of long-running Parliamentary PhD Fellowship schemes and key improvements for the future, has been carried out by Southampton Lecturer and Director of Research for Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour Dr Jane Parry.

Jane used Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) funding to help finance a secondment to evaluate the benefit of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) schemes from the point of view of the participants, funders, parliamentary and non-parliamentary stakeholders.

Jane’s research has documented the benefits that each of the various groups gained from the scheme, as well as identifying key steps that could be taken to further improve the Fellowship schemes for the future.

Her findings showed that POST Fellowships can clearly be a career, if not life-changing, experience and they have led to several Fellows achieving positions of significant policy influence. For Fellows that ultimately take up jobs in academia, undertaking a policy-focused Fellowship gave them a new appreciation of where their research fits into the science-policy landscape and often provided focus when applying for grants or publishing papers. She also gathered useful feedback about how POST can continue to build upon its work to ensure that Fellows have the best experience they can.

Jane said: “My research considered the schemes’ benefits in terms of the participants, funders and parliamentary stakeholders, surveying 65 former PhD Fellows who had taken part in the schemes over the past 20 years and were now in academic, policy or leadership positions.

“From their responses, a balanced qualitative sample of 38 former Fellows, POST and parliamentary stakeholders, and stakeholders in the devolved administrations was selected. These interviews explored the value of the Fellowship schemes in greater depth.”

Among the findings were:

PhD Fellowship participants - were unanimous in their support for the experience whether they had undertaken their PhD Fellowship in POST, in one of Westminster’s committees or libraries, or in a devolved setting. They felt there was long-term value in terms of their skills development, their career decision-making and their career progression.

They valued the Fellowships as stimulating and rewarding experiences that often enhanced their motivation when they returned to their universities to complete their PhDs. They also felt that they had developed their inter-transferrable skillset particularly in policy competence, writing and research skills and team-working. Many reported using the policy skillset in their subsequent careers. They also reported acquiring substantial gains in their employability as the POST brand was recognised by potential employers and respected in the policy field.

Parliamentary stakeholders - recognised the benefits of having high-quality Fellows working with them, saying it increased their workload capacity, enhanced their personal development as managers, exposed them to new perspectives and broadened their networks. The greatest value of the schemes was developing the skills of the next generation of policy actors who would continue to interact with Parliament and policy circles, regardless of their career destinations.

Stakeholders outside the parliamentary process - funders felt the schemes offered value in being able to influence and deepen their knowledge of the Parliamentary research agenda; policy and academic communities felt they were provided with robust and accessible sources of information around current policy issues; while universities found value in the improved employability of their postgraduate researchers.

Jane said: “The funding has been very useful for me in developing my relationships with policy communities in Westminster and the devolved administrations. I have been asked by POST to carry out horizon scanning for them on future areas of funding, and to contribute as an expert in other POST notes in my research area.”

Jane’s report has been used as evidence of added value in POST’s response to the ESRC’s review of the PhD in the Social Sciences; used as evidence of the career skillsets provided by the Fellowships in POST’s response to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s invitation for views on the research, development and innovation landscape; and regularly shared with international counterparts who are interested in the POST model.

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