Summary

In June 2015, the Health and Social Care Board (HSC Board) introduced Self-Directed Support across Northern Ireland.  Self-directed support is an umbrella term used to describe more personalised methods of social care delivery.  It has been designed to improve choice and flexibility and attempts to move away from traditional narrow and inflexible service-led approaches. However, the number of people organising their care in this way has been much lower than anticipated. Particularly among older people.

Researchers who have explored this issue found that the administration of direct payments was perceived, by social workers and service users, as highly complex and besieged by administrative tasks. In partnership with community groups the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has developed a service delivery model, for Self-Directed Support, designed to reduce the administrative burden of organising one’s own social care, yet maintaining the flexibility, ownership and principle of service user empowerment originally associated with Self-Directed Support. The Belfast Trust has contracted Ulster University to complete an evaluation of this model of practice, currently referred to as “Admin-Free Direct Payments”.

Study Aim

To ascertain if Admin-Free Direct Payments helps social care service users to use direct payments successfully.

Objectives

The successful PhD candidate will design a study to answer the following questions:

*Does Admin-Free Direct Payments reduce attrition from direct payment adoption

*Does Admin-Free Direct Payments affect service user satisfaction with the delivery of their social care

*Does Admin-Free Direct Payments increase service user well-being

*Does the contracting of a community group to deliver Admin-Free Direct Payments, increase or decrease the overall cost of social care delivery.

Project Rationale

Handing budgets over to service users and facilitating service users’ management of social care budgets is a powerful example of service user empowerment. Service user empowerment, and the promotion of service user autonomy, self-determination and person-centered care is a fundamental pillar of the social work code of practice (NISCC, 2019).  However, little is known about the difference direct payments makes to social well-being, and the service users’ perspective on personal budget allocations (Scottish Government 2018). In addition, the impetus to develop the delivery of social care in an evidence-based way is clear. The importance of evaluating practice developments, such as that described here, in terms of benefits to service users has been emphasised in our local policy and practice guide (Research and Continuous Improvement Strategy, 2020-2025).

Potential study methods

Prospective PhD candidates should consider quantitative approaches to the evaluation of social work practice. While qualitative enquiry may have a role in understanding service users’ experiences or perspectives on Admin-Free Direct Payments, candidates should be aware that Ulster University has been contracted to study service user outcomes. Comparative studies using an experimental or quasi-experimental design should be considered, alongside the ethical issues relating to the deployment of different service models to different service users.

The Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment at Ulster currently has two PhD candidates studying the impact of administrative burdens on social work practice, and service user outcomes. These candidates will complete their candidacies this year and have generated an impressive range of publications to date. The proposed project is a logical next step in the School’s commitment to this research focus, with a high likelihood of key publications on a topic which is at the top of social work practice agenda.


Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.


Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,840 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,840 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living


Recommended reading

Beresford, P. (Ed.) (2014). Personalisation. Bristol: Policy Press’ Chapman, A. (2018). Adult social care in Northern Ireland. Administration, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 99–115 doi: 10.2478/admin-2018-0029.

Clark H.,  Gough H.,  Macfarlane A. (2004). ‘It Pays Dividends’: Direct Payments and Older People, Bristol Policy Press. DHSSPS. (2002). Carers and Direct Payments Act (Northern Ireland) 2002. Belfast: DHSSPS.

Department of Health NI. (2017). Power to people: Proposals to reboot adult social care and support in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Department of Health.

Duffy, J., Basu, S., Davidson, G., & Pearson, K. C. (2015). Review of legislation and policy guidance relating to adult social care in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Commissioner for Older People.

Gray, A. M., & Birrell, D. (2016). Delivering social welfare: Governance and service provision in the UK. Bristol: The Policy Press. Hasler, F. and Stewart, A. (2004), Making direct payments work: Identifying and overcoming barriers to implementation, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Hasler, F. & Marshall, S. (2013). Trust is the key: Increasing the take-up of direct payments. [online] Available at: https://www.thinklocalactpersonal.org.uk/_assets/TLAPTrustIsTheKeyFINAL.pdf [Accessed 12.11.21]

Legislation.gov.uk. 2014. Care Act 2014. [online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/23/contents/enacted [Accessed 12.11.21]

Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. [online] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/asp/2013/1/contents/enacted [Accessed 12.11.21]

Scottish Government (2014) Statutory Guidance to Accompany the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2018) Self-directed Support Implementation Study, Report 4: Summary of Study Findings and Implications. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

SCIE Highlights No 6 – May 2019 Scaling up community based models of care in Northern Ireland


The Doctoral College at Ulster University