Research impact

What does our research do?

Fundamentally we want our research to change things for the better. We want people to have better health, welfare and social care services; for our communities, local, national or international, to be able to improve how they operate, for the benefit of everyone.

Our work doesn't finish when we write our report, we engage with the users of our research to help them to get the best from it and to change their practices in order to deliver the best outcomes possible. 

REF impact case studies

The last assessment of the impact of our research by national auditors saw SPSW at York come equal first amongst all the universities in the country. Below is a link to four case studies that were part of that assessment (known as the REF). They show how our research spread out into the community and made a difference.

Making Research Count

We promote communication and knowledge sharing with local agencies through a lively programme of conferences, seminars and workshops organised by Making Research Count (MRC). The agencies include children's and adults' services, health trusts and independent sector organisations. The events bring together the best of practitioner expertise, research knowledge and service user experience in order to improve the services of people in need of help. The MRC office for Yorkshire and the Humber is run from SPSW in York.

Projects creating impact

York is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to take forward our research into the community in new ways. SPSW has been successful in securing funding for several projects:

Supporting change of the York Youth Offending Team's, Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Scheme

York has a stubborn reoffending rate, driven by a small number of young people who persistently offend, with varying levels of risk of harm to the public.  Historically, this group has been worked with using the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (ISS) model.  ISS is a rigorous, non-custodial programme involving up to 25 hours supervision per week and a variety of interventions (for example, electronic tags, offending behaviour work, life skills support, education/employment/training advice and provision, family support and restorative justice).  However, the current policy environment has brought about a significant period of change to both the service context and to ISS policy and practice, meaning that the nature of ISS needs to be re-considered. 

The aim of this project is to work with the York Youth Offending Team (YOT) to provide them with a sound evidence base for decision-making in remodelling ISS provision.  We will gather data from a variety of sources to help inform YOT thinking on ISS.  We see this as the first step in a larger project to eventually develop a best practice model for ISS and to then evaluate and demonstrate its effectiveness, using the Youth Justice Board’s ‘Theory of Change’ guidance.  York YOT perceives this as a highly important piece of work, which will impact significantly on service delivery and on how resources will be directed in the long term.

Dr Hannah Jobling is leading a team which includes Dr Aniela Wenham and Angela Crossland (York Youth Offending Team, City of York Council) to review the Intensive Supervisionand Surveillance Scheme used by the Youth Offending Team in York.

Understanding a new model of professional practice that empowers separated parents to make agreements

This is a co-production of knowledge project with Resolution, a national association of family justice professionals working with separated families. They are currently running an important new intervention called Family Matters (FM) which aims to support low income parents experiencing family breakdown. Family breakdown is often a devastating time for families and parents can feel frightened, angry and confused and not know where to turn for help. FM meets their needs by using highly trained Guides to support both parents to deal with their legal, emotional and practical difficulties in a holistic way. Ultimately, by using a non-adversarial model of practice, the Guides aim to empower parents to make their own agreements about their children. Resolution approached Dr Skinner to work in partnership to help them explore how well their model is working in practice. The project will generate new knowledge which will have an immediate impact on the FM service and improve family wellbeing as well as contribute more widely to policy making and national debates about professional practice.

Professor Christine Skinner is working with Ida Foster and Claire Easterman from Resolution anad Family Matters.

Lionesses life stories sexual exploitation resource

There has been rapidly growing concern about victims of sexual exploitation in recent years and the full extent of this issue is only beginning to be understood and addressed.  Many young people with experience of sexual exploitation have complex stories to tell about ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors connected to their involvement, yet their voices are commonly missing or side-lined in developing and delivering responses to the issue (Berelowitz et al, 2013; Brown, 2006).The aim of this project is to produce and promote an accessible print and online resource containing brief powerful life stories of young people who have experienced sexual exploitation, told in their own words. The resource will  be co-produced with a specialist sexual exploitation charity Genesis Leeds ( and will feature the stories of ‘the lionesses’, a group of young women aged 15-18 who have past experience of exploitation and who meet regularly at the charity. The young people will help design and produce the resource, with the researcher ensuring that messages from young people’s life stories are edited and framed using current research and knowledge on sexual exploitation. The resource will be used and promoted by the charity in a range of initiatives they are involved in which develop best practice on CSE local, regionally and nationally

Dr Kate Brown is working on this with Rosie Campbell OBE, the CEO of Genesis Leeds.

Winning support for the Welfare State

There is a commonly presumed decline of public support for the social safety net. Academic experts and research and policy specialists from charities and non-governmental organisations, will get together to reflect on the lessons from historical and contemporary research examining public attitudes to the UK welfare state. They will also examine related research that adopts a cross-national or theoretical perspective. They will collectively reflect on the strategic and practical implications of this well-established body of research for campaigning organisations committed to addressing social injustice through their work.

Professor John Hudson and Professor Neil Lunt will be working on this with Jenny Pennington from the charity Shelter.

Traversing the new pensions landscape

The pension landscape is undergoing significant reshaping, including the introduction of auto-enrolment for employees, and new freedoms to access pension pots. An underlying policy emphasis remains one of encouraging individuals to better plan for their retirement. This Roundtable brings together a number of key interests across the field of pension education, policy and delivery to exchange knowledge and emerging practices relating to UK and international practice. The Roundtable includes practitioners involved in the delivery of education and advice, those with responsibilty for policy (overseas), and academics with interest around delivery and behaviour change.

Professor Neil Lunt  and Dr Antonios Roumpakis will be leading on this with Rachel Ward from the Pensions Advisory Service.

Recent research engagement activities

We take our research out into the community to talk to new groups of people about what we've found through our research. Some of the ways we did this are detailed below for you:

Game of Homes

The project funded activity to support the development of ‘Game of Homes’, an interactive role-playing  game aimed at Year 9-11 and fulfilling elements of PHSE within the curriculum encouraging children to reflect on homelessness, financial planning, welfare and social justice.  The Game is to be used in schools, by housing module undergraduates and at the European Researcher Night in September.   The Game was developed to playable level using CHP staff and undergraduates and tested on students; further testing took place with a group of secondary school students from the Mount School in York. An Internship was secured to create a game aesthetic. Even at its development phase, the Game is proving to be an effective teaching tool, able to convey complex ideas on the interplay of welfare, policy and the housing market.   We have seen engagement between SPSW and the local community, disseminating research findings on young people and housing in an innovative way. The project is led by Dr Julie Rugg from the Centre for Housing Policy.

Federation of Small Businesses

Annie Irvine, our specialist on mental health and employment, took a presentation about managing mental health in the workplace to local meetings of the Federation of Small Businesses. These are gatherings of self employed and small business owners who discuss issues of interest and exchange experience for mutual benefit. The audiences were self selected and engaged with the topic. Alongside the presentation there were extensive informal exchanges of information, stories and insights into the pressures of running a small business whilst coping with employees' or personal mental health difficulties. The meetings were very successful and enjoyed by the members attending. Annie used the events to gain lots of useful insights into the key issues of concern to small businesses around managing mental health and long term absence in the small business context, which will be beneficial in putting together the case for support in her next research proposal.

National study day for Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group

In this project we held a study day entitled ‘Addressing stress and burnout in children’s cancer services- looking to the future'.  The event was endorsed, and advertised on behalf of the University, by the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) UK.  Attendance was open to senior practitioners working in UK Principal Treatment Centres with line management responsibility for staff.  The study day was attended by 27 senior staff working in children’s cancer services, or organisations that support staff in these services.  Organisations represented included: 9 Principal Treatment Centres (almost half of all the treatment centres in the UK); the Teenage Cancer Trust; Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) UK; and the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.  

The aim of the study day was to bring researchers and senior practitioners together to exchange knowledge about, and experiences in addressing, stress and burnout in children’s cancer services.  Presentations were given by the SPRU research team, Professor Bryony Beresford and Dr Suzanne Mukherjee, as well as by a number of guest speakers. 

Time was also made for small and whole group discussions and for completion of a ‘Record of the Day’ booklet, in which delegates recorded their learning from the day and any implications for practice.  At the end of the study day, delegates were asked to complete a form outlining what action they were planning to take as a result of attending the event.  Permission to contact delegates 3-6 months after the event to monitor whether any changes had been implemented was also sought. 

In addition, a film was made of the presentations which has been loaded on to the CCLG website and is being shared with a wide range of colleagues who could not attend on the day.

Training in the Connecting People Intervention for two in-patient hospitals

The Connecting People Intervention (CPI) provides practice guidance to social care professionals so that they effectively connect vulnerable and isolated people with other members of their community in order to build relationships and develop social networks. The intervention can be used by the NHS, Local Authorities and the third sector. In 2015 Martin Webber obtained travel and subsistence costs from the External Engagement Award to deliver CPI training to staff of two mental health inpatient facilities in Hampshire. CPI has not been used in an inpatient environment before.

Staff readily engaged in the two-day training but it had a very different impact in the two units. One was subject to a commercial take-over shortly after the training and a new manager, who was not present at the training, also took over shortly afterwards. As a result, it was not implemented. However, in the other unit, which had stable staffing and leadership, the training was further disseminated to all staff and several projects were initiated as a result. These included:

  • setting up a literacy course for people with mental health problems in a local community centre
  • the compiling of a resource file with details of local community facilities, groups and places to visit
  • staff are increasingly linking service users to community groups or resources that they are aware of or use themselves.

There are strong indications that the CPI is being used as a practice model in the second unit and that it has reoriented their work towards the wider community in which the unit is located.

Academic impact

Research in SPSW also creates a lot of publications. Often these are journal articles for other academics to read in order to take forward the discussion in that field of interest. We also publish in practitioner journals to connect with the people on the ground and bring our research knowledge to bear on their practice. Our researchers write books, handbooks and guides for interested people to read in depth the results of our research. You can view all of these here: