Support for Vulnerable People

Support for Vulnerable People

This programme investigates the support that is needed for vulnerable people and aims to generate evidence for local government, and improve the evidence used by national government in developing policies. The focus is on activity intended to support people at times of vulnerability to prevent further adversity. This research is led by Professor Ruth Hancock and Professor Julien Forder.

About this research stream

This research stream focuses on activity intended to support people at times of vulnerability to prevent further adversity. The focus is on the following areas:

Early intervention and prevention

How can services prevent deterioration in the circumstances of vulnerable people and avoid the consequent effects on their well-being and on costs?

By tracking population cohorts it will be possible to identify trajectories of need, patterns of service use and outcomes. Tracking older people’s care trajectories will identify interventions which maintain independence and avoid unnecessary care home or hospital admission.

Monitoring and evaluation of policy changes

Local authorities need to fulfil national policy requirements sometimes designed on the basis of imperfect understanding of local considerations. Policy initiatives for children have focused on early prevention, for example SureStart and the ‘troubled families’ programme. Tracking cohorts of children will allow us to ascertain which children from a range of backgrounds, including the most disadvantaged, come to the attention of children’s services and develop pathway maps and outcome measures. From 2016 there will be a cap on an individual’s liability for care. This will provide rich data and reveal whether assumptions made in designing these policies were correct or identify if reforms are needed. With access to local authority data long term care policy simulation models will be refined, extended and used to provide further evidence for policy development and implementation.

The market for care and local authority procurement

Tight budgets pose challenges for LAs in working with private providers. The ‘mixed economy’ of care involves local authority procurement, direct purchase of care by individuals in a private capacity or via ‘personal budgets’ and private sector supply of care services. This raises concerns over the quantity and quality of supply, the practice of cross-subsidising from private to LA-funded residents and the effects of policy reforms. We plan to use data on local care markets to understand the consequences of different procurement strategies and identify those most likely to safeguard the supply of good quality care services.

Productivity and local variations

There is significant variation in how LAs commission social care services. We aim to investigate the patterns of services they procure, assessing the relationship between these patterns and the needs of service users, various outcome indicators and other factors. We aim to identify the optimal balance of commissioned services, resourcing levels of personal budgets etc.

Integration of health and social care

Previous work suggests significant inter-dependencies and potentials for substitution between health and social care services. We plan to link LA data on social care use with corresponding health care data, assessing why users have different mixes of these services and whether the use of social care reduces the use of health care, and vice versa, and with what outcomes for users.

Research news

View a selection of the latest Support for Vulnerable People research papers below or you can view them all in our Research Repository.

Research team

Professor Ruth Hancock

Research Lead

Ruth's research interests are in the economic, health and social policy implications of individual and population ageing.

Dr Stephen Allan


Stephen is a social and health care economist with a particular interest in the English care homes market for older people.

Amanda Burke


Amanda's current research interests include neighbourhood renewal in deprived neighbourhoods and in cultural services.

Dr James Cornford


James' current research interests include multi-agency organisational change in the public sector, organisational change associated with information and communication technologies.

Lisanne Gitsels


Lisanne's current research interests include analysing longitudinal data to contribute to solving current social and health problems.

Professor Morten Hviid


Morten's current research interests are in the areas of competition law, industrial economics, tort law and contract law.

Dr Marcello Morciano


Marcello's current research interests include The economics of disability, Applied health micro-econometrics and Health and public economics of ageing.

Professor Gillian Schofield


Gillian's current research interests include planning systems and the nature of foster and adoptive family relationships, in particular the use of attachment theory to promote security and resilience.

Dr Jose-Luiz Fernandez


Jose-Luiz' current research interests include ageing-related policies, the interaction between health and social care, and the economic evaluation of health and social care services and systems.

Jim Vine


Jim's current research interests include national analysis and area-based work with local authority and housing association data.

Professor Stephen Pudney


Stephen is an applied econometrician working mainly on health and disability issues.

Dr Ferran Espuny Pujol


Ferran's current research interests include Social Care and Health Care methodological and applied research.