We are delighted to announce that a recent funding application which we submitted to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has been successful.
After sharing ideas together during our knowledge exchange meetings and our seminar events, our main focus turned to working together on a research funding proposal.
After a long wait following submission, we finally heard the good news in late 2017. The funding is for a two-year study, which we are all set to start at the beginning of March 2018.
The project is called ‘Reclaiming social care: Adults with learning disabilities seizing opportunities in the shift from day services to community lives.’
This study is about the ways in which people with learning disabilities and their allies are managing change in their social care, support and learning opportunities. A transformation is taking place in the UK (echoed elsewhere) in which many more disabled people are now living independently, as part of a broader move towards social care provision that is personalised and within the individual’s control. Meanwhile, there have been significant cuts to local authority budgets, with day centres, adult education provision and other services closing or limiting availability.
In this new landscape, there is some local evidence of people with learning disabilities (and their families and allies) creating new initiatives: innovative forms of peer-led support, including ‘friendship circles’, to provide support, learn and share knowledge, make and meet friends as well as collective pooling of personal budgets to do something bigger, such as hiring out a former day centre for activities. However, wider evidence of these groups and the broader impacts of the changing landscape on people with learning disabilities is lacking.
The proposed research seeks to address this gap in knowledge by examining how people with learning disabilities are responding in proactive ways to day service changes. It will explore how they are managing to participate in community settings and creating new forms of collective peer-led support. It will examine the informal, lifelong and community learning involved in the development of these, what we call, ‘self-build networks’.
Our project team brings together a group of researchers across the south coast including Andrew Power, Melanie Nind, and Hannah MacPherson at University of Southampton, as well as in Scotland: Ed Hall and Alex Kaley at University of Dundee. The project team also includes local disability self-advocacy organisations including People First Dorset, Dorset Advocacy, Choices Advocacy (Southampton), The Advocacy Project (Glasgow) and Angus Independent Advocacy. Thanks also go to Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) and the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability for their help with the proposal idea and for agreeing to support the project.
The researchers (with close input from our advocacy partners) will undertake, for the first time, a series of detailed area-based case-studies of learning disability support landscapes across England and Scotland including interviews and observation. This will involve looking in-depth at local peer-led networks to identify how they are organised, supported and funded, their activities and connections, and their opportunities and challenges for expansion.
We hope that the outcomes from our project will enhance the fledgling network of self-build networks across the UK through a series of activities which will inform the future development of this emergent and important form of social care and informal learning.