Social care is an enormous sector, serving over 1.5m people, both children and adults, via 39,000 establishments run by 17,700 organisations. Social care incorporates residential care, day care, home care, as well as support for carers and can be provided by unpaid carers such as family members, the voluntary sector, the public sector (i.e. local authorities) and the private (for-profit) sector. Sometimes those in need of care employ their own personal assistant to carry out caring activities.
The challenge of aggregating data across such a varied and fragmented sector is enormous. A study might collect data about the level of need of social care services from a group of participants, while collecting little to nothing on participants’ receipt of those required services. Another study might find that a participant provides care to another person but records nothing on the views of that person receiving care about whether the care received meets their needs. Nevertheless, data on all three topics (need, prevision and receipt) exist in many datasets and with pressures on social care in the form of steadily increasing demand and costs, the demand for data analysis that contributes to evidence-based policy is greatly needed.
The benefits of the catalogue
CPEC’s Catalogue of Social Care Data (CASCID) gathers information on existing social care datasets in one site. The advantages of doing so are numerous. For data to be used, it must first be found and the CASCID ensures that existing data can be easily located using the website’s search functions. This makes it easy for researchers from both within social care and other specialisms to find relevant social care data. Researchers from other specialisms, in particular, may otherwise be unaware of which datasets contain relevant measures.
The convenience of having information about social care datasets in one site, and the range of query functions available, should encourage greater exploration and use of existing data, as well as increased comparisons across datasets, enabling information gaps to be noticed and filled. Harmonisation of data questions is also likely to increase as researchers see how previous investigators worded a measure. This might encourage them to construct their questionnaires similarly so that the resulting data can be compared with existing collections. Related measures in varied datasets also assist in cross-tabulating social care data with other types of information such as health and employment data.
The Catalogue does not provide access to social care data but does link to organisations, such as the UK Data Service, from whom the data can be accessed. The Catalogue also does not appraise the suitability of measures for use in data analysis.
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