Research with adult service users

Guidelines for carrying out research and consultation with people who use our services.

Is this information for you?

This information is for people seeking approval for research, consultation or audits involving staff and people using adult social care services or their carers.

If you are seeking approval for a project involving children and young people, this involves a different process and is not governed by the same regulations or legislation. Please contact us for more information.

 Advice and information about ethics and research involving children.

Research, audits or consultations

We are committed to carrying out and supporting high quality research, audits and consultations while protecting those who take part in these activities.

If you plan to do research, audits or consultations with people who use our adult social care services or their carers, parents or members of staff, you will need to have your project plan registered and approved before you start.

This applies to council staff, staff from other organisations and to students.

What is research governance?

At Oxfordshire County Council it is a process for ensuring that research, evaluation, audits and consultations are checked before they are carried out to make sure they are ethical, of a good standard and that people who take part are protected.

Which types of projects should apply for research governance?

Research in the context of social care includes research, evaluation and audit.

Consultations are only included if they employ research methods and exclusively target people who use services, their carers or staff.

The principle of including all these types of projects differs from health projects where usually only pure research would go through research governance.

Anyone undertaking this kind of project such as county council staff, staff from other organisations and students needs to apply for research governance approval.

You should apply for research governance if you are planning to:

  • invite people who use the council's adult social care services, their carers, parents, or members of staff to take part in your research, evaluation, audit or consultation
  • use standard research methods – i.e. questionnaires, interviews (these could be face-to-face, telephone, postal or internet), focus groups or observation

Which types of projects will not need to apply?

You do not need to apply for research governance if any of the following apply:

  • Service users carers or staff are not involved in the project e.g. in the case of a literature review
  • The general public are being invited to participate, e.g. in an online survey or public meeting
  • People are invited to a large general information gathering or feedback meeting where members of the council are available to answer questions, for example a consultation event
  • Standard research methods (i.e. interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, observations) are not being used.

Why do you need to go through this process?

Since 2002, The Department of Health has said that all local authorities who provide adult social care services must use a research governance process.

The purpose of research governance is to ensure that:

  • vulnerable people and staff are protected from harm or distress through the research undertaken by Councils or other bodies
  • the quality of research is assured and it gathers the intended data
  • public money spent on research is used wisely and the findings are relevant and used to improve practice
  • all research (not evaluation, consultation or audit) that involves people who lack capacity is referred to the Social Care Research Ethics Committee. This is a legal requirement.

Why is research governance helpful?

As well as ensuring ethical robustness, the research governance process also helps to:

  • coordinate research activities taking place
  • ensure people who use services, carers and staff are not over-consulted by keeping an overview of what is happening
  • make any findings accessible to people
  • improve the quality of research and consultation
  • ensure we comply with legal and ethical standards
  • support county council staff carrying out projects

Mental Capacity Act - participants who lack capacity to consent

If research involves people who may lack capacity to consent to participating in the research, it is a legal requirement for you to go through the national research ethics committee – Social Care Research Ethics Committee (SCREC). Social Care Research Ethics Committee

Once you have approval from the Social Care Research Ethics Committee you may make an application to the council for research governance approval.

What is involved in the research governance process?

Approval involves consideration by the council of any ethical issues, the robustness of the research methods, health and safety of participants (including potential distress), finance and intellectual property.

The Research Governance lead will review the application internally according to a set of criteria which include assessing any potential risks, impact on staff time, benefits to the council and overlap with current research projects.  Complex or potentially high risk projects may be referred to social care professionals for their comment.

This process can take up to six weeks but in the majority of cases it will be ten working days.

After any recommended changes are made, research governance approval can be given in the form of a permission letter signed by the Director of Social Services.

How to apply

Step 1

Complete the Research Governance Application for your project plan to be registered and approved before you start.

External applicants who do not work for Oxfordshire County Council need to complete

County Council staff - need to complete

Step 2

Send application and paperwork to the Research Governance Lead (see Contact us).

Step 3

Research Governance Lead may come back to you for clarification, amendment or additional papers.

Step 4

If necessary the Research Governance Lead sends out your proposal for approval to other health and social care professionals.

Step 5

Approval is given or amendments are requested. If amendments are requested, you need to make the relevant changes and return them to the Research Governance Lead.

Step 6

Approval is given and confirmation letter sent to you.