Helping older people with mental health needs to engage with social care: Enhancing support worker skills through a prototype learning and development intervention (The HOPES 2 Study)

Louise Newbould In progress  


Many studies show that outside help can be hard to accept for people living with poor mental health or memory difficulties. Understanding the purpose of care and communicating any worries can be hard. Sometimes people will reject the care verbally or physically, which can result in them being labelled as a ‘difficult person’. Providing care in these situations can be hard, when home care workers are under pressure to deliver care in often short timeframes. As a result, relationships between the individuals and service providers can sometimes fall apart.

The research team’s previous research suggests that “specialist support workers” within community mental health services may help older people living with dementia or with complex mental health needs to accept social care. However, these specialist support workers often say that they do not have the chance to learn or share knowledge, strategies and skills between themselves. Earlier research also found that the training available is often unsuitable for this group of workers because it is either too basic and does not account for their specialist knowledge from their experience in mental health work; or else too advanced as it expects them to have professional qualifications.


The aim of this study is to develop and refine a prototype learning and development intervention which enhances specialist support worker knowledge, understanding and skills to reduce the difficulties that older people with mental health needs have when engaging with social care. This will be based on learning from the ‘Helping Older People Engage in Social care project’ (or ‘HOPES 1’).

The objectives are to:

  1. Identify the appropriate content, design and delivery mechanism for the learning and development intervention through stakeholder engagement
  2. Understand how the new intervention should be implemented and to identify tools to validate it in the wider context of existing training and development frameworks
  3. Understand how the new intervention should be implemented in the wider socio-occupational context in which support workers operate.
  4. Initiate the intervention in one site to pilot the feasibility and fidelity of intervention and examine signs of efficacy.
  5. Gain buy-in from the social care sector (voluntary, private and LA) by building links with organisations such as SCIE and through activities such as the workshop and practitioner interviews
  6. Develop a person-specification to identify those suitable to deliver the learning.


The study has three stages:

  1. Evidence review and stakeholder (practitioner, users and carers) consultation
  2. Coproduction of the intervention through a participatory workshop and interviews
  3. Pilot of the prototype on one site to see how it works in real situations.