May 2012

Researchers at TSRC in Birmingham, in conjunction with colleagues in the Health Services Management Centre (HSMC), undertook a review for theNIHR School for Social Care Research, to examine the role of the third sector in delivering social care.

Third sector providers have been important in delivering social care for some time, but this role is changing in the context of personalisation and constrained financial resources. Despite this, our review highlights a lack of robust research in this area.

There is a need to explore the different roles that third sector organisations play in relation to social care – both in delivering services and campaigning. Comparative research is also vital, in order to identify whether and how the third sector is distinctive.

There has also been little research on the use of volunteers and the added value they bring.

The review calls for a better mix of research methods. The use of large-scale quantitative data has been rare, but could provide a picture of the scale and spread of third sector organisations involved in social care at a national and regional level.

The review examined existing literature and interviewed key contacts. It starts from 1990, when the NHS and Community Care Act brought far reaching changes for social care. The review builds on previous research at TSRC in health and social care and service delivery by third sector organisations more generally.

For more information contact: Pete Alcock or Helen Dickinson