The Sustainable Care Research Programme

In conjunction with seven other universities, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Large Grant funding, researchers from the School of Social Policy are examining potential sustainable solutions to the ongoing crisis within the UK’s social care system.

Established in 2006, CIRCLE – the Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities  is a Faculty of the Social Sciences research centre conducting research, evaluation and consultancy on contemporary policy, practice and theoretical issues and debates on topics in three main areas: care, labour and equalities. The Sustainable Care: connecting people and systems programme is CIRCLE’s major research programme, undertaken with an ESRC award for the period 2017 to 2021.

The University of Birmingham is providing key strands within the research to include Professor Jenny Phillimore and Dr Kelly Hall’s work around migration, superdiversity and care, Professor Jon Glasby and Dr Matt Bennett’s work on the future costs of social care and Professor Catherine Needham’s work comparing care systems across the four nations of the UK.

With an ageing population, shortages of staff in home and residential care, and growing reliance on unpaid carers, the question of how to resource and deliver social care is a critical issue facing society today.

This research aims to:

  • Develop a new conceptual framework on sustainable care and wellbeing by including two Work Strands; ‘Care Systems’ and ‘Care Work & Relationships’, each with four linked projects.
  • Examine experiences in the UK’s four national systems of social care: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Have an international approach to identifying solutions by working with academic partners in 15 other countries.  This approach will take a future-oriented and internationally comparative look at current approaches to the care needs of adults living at home with chronic health problems or disabilities, examining these in the context of care systems, care work and care relationships.
  • Consider how these approaches can be made economically and socially sustainable while still delivering positive outcomes for care users, for families and carers and for care workers.
  • Look at how emerging technologies such as apps and smart assistive devices could transform social care.
  • Consider the role of migrant care workers in the UK and internationally, and how innovative home care models could help the sector become more sustainable.

The findings of the project will feed directly into the charity, Carers UK, and help influence policy at local, national and international levels to improve how care is planned, resourced, organised and delivered.


November 2017 – April 2021


Professor Sue Yeandle (Principal investigator), Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield
Professor Jon Glasby, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham
Professor Jenny Phillimore, Institute of Research into Superdiversity, University of Birmingham
Professor Catherine Needham, Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham
Dr Kelly Hall, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham
Professor Norah Keating, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University
Professor Jason Heyes, Management School, University of Sheffield
Professor Mark Hawley, Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield
Dr Majella Kilkey, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield
Prof Jill Manthorpe, King's Policy Institutes, Kings College London
Professor James McGregor, Politics, University of Sheffield
Dr Shereen Hussein, King's Policy Institutes, King's College London
Dr Diane Burns, Management School, University of Sheffield
Professor Luc de Witte, Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield
Professor Janet Fast, Human Ecology, University of Alberta (Canada)
Ms Madeleine Starr, Carers UK
Dr Alasdair Rutherford, Applied Social Science, University of Stirling
Dr Ann Marie Gray, School of Policy Studies, Ulster University
Professor Louise Ryan, Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield