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Celebrating 10 years of Research in Practice for Adults

03 March 2015

Celia Atherton is the Director of Social Justice at the Dartington Hall TrustMuch changes over time – and some things hardly seem to change. How true this is of RiPfA, as it celebrates its 10th birthday. 

Celia Atherton is the Director of Social Justice at the Dartington Hall Trust, which fundamentally concentrates on promoting greater fairness within society. Having led Research in Practice for Adults since its conception in 2005, and as it celebrates its tenth year of service, Celia reflects on how the sector has changed over the last ten years.   

There has been a lot of change in adult social care. Ten years ago Adult Services were held within their own local authority directorate, with most services provided directly by them and little coordination with health provision. Today, Adult Services are increasingly to be found within a people’s directorate; most direct service provision is commissioned from a wide range of commercial, social enterprise and charity providers; and everyone is working hard to breach the wall between health and social care provision.

The problems that people have, sadly, don’t go away though. In some ways they don’t change – in others they may get worse. And it is this that RiPfA has always focused on. It was conceived of, started with and remains determined about, changing the way we think about and deliver support to those who most need it – by building the evidence base, by making it accessible, by learning how to use it properly, and by building and using strong learning networks across services and regions. 

Ten years of Research in Practice

Despite the progress made, there is still much to do. More older people have multiple conditions than ever before – yet most of our health services are based on people having one condition. Sixty-five per cent of people in hospital are over the age of 65, yet we talk as if adult services are equal across all age groups. We are rapidly reaching the position where 40% of our population will be over the age of 65, but are at the same time cutting funding for this age group – resulting in more people  being admitted to hospital and fewer being able to get out again.

RiPfA was set up in 2005 at the behest of a group of Directors of Social Services who admired what RiP had provided for the children and families sector for nine years and wanted the same for adults.

That exemplifies one of the distinctive qualities of RiPfA – that it is the idea of those leading commissioning and service provision. It is independent of central government and is a network for those who are working on the frontline to use all the tools at their disposal to help people improve their lives and the lives of those around them. That independence is crucial and permanent – something that the sector has guarded well.  And, as a result, RiPfA continues to have a strong presence in the local, regional and national sectors – helping all to find and use research evidence well, pushing researchers to do work that matters on the frontline and to report it in ways that are relevant to frontline staff. It also pushes service and commissioning leaders to provide the support that frontline staff need and want – and being a Partner in RiPfA continues to be the very best way to achieve this. It is really heartening to see more and more local authorities recognising this and joining RiPfA – never more needed when resources are so tight and have to be spent in the ways that research shows are most likely to work.

The core values of RiPfA remain both strong and highly relevant – to bring the best and most relevant research to the service of staff and agencies helping vulnerable people improve their lives; to support a network of professionals to learn with and for each other; to adapt our services and products to the changing needs and learning styles of front-line staff and their leaders; and to work closely with all others who want to see greater fairness and opportunity in everyone’s life.

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