Accessibility statement

NIHR SSCR PhD studentship

Topic: 'Processes, experiences and outcomes for adults who self-fund home adaptations'
Start date:
October 2020
Application deadline:
 21 June 2020

Part of the NIHR School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR) at the University of York.

Applications are invited for a full-time, funded, three-year PhD studentship in Social Policy within the Department of Social Policy and Social Work (SPSW) at the University of York.

The work will be fully situated at York and will be supervised by Professor Yvonne Birks (University of York), with additional supervision provided by Dr Phillip Whitehead (Northumbria University) to embed the studentship within his work.

The award will cover academic fees at the UK/EU rate, plus a maintenance grant of £15,500 PA, with a total additional resource to support research, travel and training costs.



Housing adaptations are alterations to buildings that aim to accommodate needs due to ageing or disability; they can enable older adults to remain at home functioning safely and independently in their communities. Major housing adaptations, those costing in excess of circa £1,000, can be funded via a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) for privately owned properties. The DFG is means tested, meaning that the person may have to pay a contribution dependent upon their income and savings.

Of those assessed as needing a housing adaptation, the biggest identifiable category for people who drop out of the process is those having to pay a contribution towards the cost of the works. Furthermore, many older adults may not approach statutory services and instead resolve their own housing needs. Little is known about the experiences and outcomes for older adults who adapt their homes out with statutory service provision, or those that do not proceed due to their assessed (or perceived) financial contribution to the works.

This study will explore the processes, experiences and outcomes for older adults who self-fund, or are deemed able to self-fund, housing adaptations. It will be linked with a large multicentre Randomised Controlled Trial (BATH-OUT-2) which is examining the clinical and cost-effectiveness of major housing adaptations to bathing facilities. Possible phases include:

  1. A review of the literature on self-funding with applied links to the housing adaptations literature
  2. Qualitative interviews with self-funding older adults and other members of their household
  3. Collection of outcome measures for comparison with outcomes collected in the BATH-OUT-2 study
  4. Analysis of outcome measures from other existing cohort studies



The NIHR School for Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR) invites applications for PhD studentships in each of its member universities. This is part of NIHR SSCR’s ongoing commitment to build research capacity in adult social care.

Launched in May 2009, NIHR SSCR is funded by the National Institute for Health Research until April 2024. NIHR SSCR works to develop the evidence base for adult social care practice in England by commissioning and conducting high-quality research. We are developing a programme to build research capacity in adult social care in England supported by the Department of Health and Social Care and NIHR Academy.

We use a broad, inclusive description of adult social care, encompassing the wide range of care and support available to and used by adults; the diversity of services and service providers of adult social care; and care and support provided through (and with) unpaid care, communities, self-care and self-funded care. We are interested in all aspects of this plurality of care and support arrangements, and their development in the current context of adult social care in England. Areas of overlap and/or integration with other sectors also fall within our remit.

Training provision

Training provision

The successful PhD student will receive training in relevant research methods through the research infrastructure within the University of York, the Department of Social Policy and Social Work and the NIHR SSCR. The student will join a cohort of networked adult social care PhD fellows at both the University of York and within the NIHR SSCR.

Co-supervision meetings will be on a monthly basis (face-to-face or video conference), will include a focus on PhD progress, and will provide an opportunity for the student to present findings and address any problems encountered. Each meeting will also include dedicated time to discuss how the student might best maximise the added value offered by the SSCR to ensure that they are well positioned for post-doctoral research applications and future career progression.



Yvonne Birks is Professor of Applied Health and Social Care Research at the University of York, and National Deputy Director of the NIHR SSCR. She has an extensive portfolio of grants and studentships examining adult social care and has a particular interest in older self-funding populations.

As well as supervision from Yvonne Birks, the student will also benefit from Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP) input from experts in adult social care and social policy from SPSW at the University of York. There will also be an opportunity to obtain formal and informal advisory input and training from colleagues across the University of York involved in the BATH-OUT-2 trial and SSCR.

Phillip Whitehead is an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing at Northumbria University. Phillip’s expertise lies in the field of community occupational therapy spanning health and social care domains. He is particularly interested in the development and evaluation of interventions to promote wellbeing and prevent or delay the use of other health and social care services.

Phillip is currently leading an NIHR SSCR funded study on Bathing Adaptations in the Homes of Older Adults (BATH-OUT) and an NIHR Research for Social Care funded study on double-handed homecare reviews.

Application process

Application process

Applicants must apply through the University's postgraduate application process by 21 June 2020. Informal enquiries should be emailed to Yvonne Birks at

Due to funding constraints we can only offer a full-time PhD, and the start date is fixed. Applications must reach the University by 21 June 2020 at midnight, and interviews will be by videolink on 9 July 2020

The NIHR SSCR is keen to support the development of research training for colleagues from UK practice; experience of both practice and academic training will be viewed as a whole. However, some Masters-level research training would be advisable.

Applicants are asked to submit up to 1000 words in the Application Form in the section entitled ‘Personal Statement’ describing why they would like to undertake this PhD, their suitability for the studentship and how this fits with their future plans. In the section on the form marked ‘Research Proposal’, just add the full title of the research project. There is also no need to submit a separate research proposal.

The University is committed to excellence in recruitment and admissions practices and service which are designed to contribute to its aims of admitting students of high quality. The University aims to provide a professional and fair service for all enquirers and applicants, and aims to select students who:

  • have the ability and motivation to benefit from the academic opportunities offered
  • will contribute to the research-led environment of the University
  • will fully engage with and contribute to university life.