Embedding behavioural science insights into Early Intervention and Prevention across service areas (adult social care, children and families and housing), to explore ways of supporting citizens before they present to the council during crisis

Supervised by Professor Catherine Needham and Professor Jessica Pykett together with Birmingham City Council.

To apply for this project, please include ‘Needham & Birmingham City Council’ as the project descriptor in the subject heading of your email. 

Demand for services across Birmingham City Council has increased in recent years and many citizens are presenting to the council once they reach crisis (for example, see the local authority’s Temporary Accommodation Strategy 2023–2028). This exerts pressure on already-stretched local government services. As part of the response to these urgent challenges, Birmingham City Council has started to implement an Early Intervention and Prevention programme to maintain enough income to deliver the services that citizens require. 

This PhD project investigates what behavioural science methods and theories can be embedded into service delivery to support citizens before they present to the council during crisis (in the context of a post-COVID-19 era, the cost-of-living crisis and increasing austerity). It examines the timeliness and level of early support for citizens, and the barriers to embedding early intervention across council services. The research will contribute to systems design to deliver support based on citizen needs, interdisciplinary understanding of human behaviour, knowledge and data on contextual factors. We expect this to lead to improved understanding and processes for the identification of citizens at risk of falling into crisis, and more effective service delivery to address those needs. 

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work closely with the Insight, Policy and Strategy team (that is responsible for the Birmingham City Observatory and the Early Intervention & Prevention Programme). This will involve a long-term work placement and training within Birmingham City Council, to embed analysis and insight into processes of decision-making. 

We are looking for a highly talented and dedicated PhD student with a 1st class or 2:1 degree in the field of anthropology, behavioural science, health economics, human geography, public administration, psychology, social policy, systems design or sociology. An MSc degree in a relevant area is desirable though not necessary. Skills in both qualitative and quantitative research methods and relevant data analysis software packages is desirable. Previous experience working in the public sector is desirable. Candidates should have some knowledge of the health and social care sector and welfare systems. We are looking for a candidate who has skills communicating to diverse audiences both verbally and in written reports or publications. 

Informal enquiries about the project prior to application can be directed to Professor Jessica Pykett