Councillors and Care: Understanding and enhancing the role of councillors in shaping adult social care practice

Catherine Needham In progress  


Social care services in England are led by elected councillors in local areas. Councillors are elected every four years and make decisions on a range of local issues.

This project focuses on the role of councillors in shaping adult social care practice – by which is meant the support that is given to people who have (or may soon have) need for social care services. Councillors decide on the range of support options available within an area and how much money should be spent on them. This may be about helping people before they need formal state services, for example through informal assistance, preventative support and other services such as housing. For those requiring state support, councillors have a role in deciding what sorts of social care services can be offered and how quality and safety will be monitored.




The project intends to find out more about how councillors shape different aspects of adult social care practice and how they can do so as effectively as possible. Not much is currently known about this. The project will look at different types of councillors – those in senior decision making roles, those in ‘scrutiny’ roles and those who are ‘backbenchers’, all of which are likely to influence different aspects of social care. Councillors and people who work with them will be interviewed to understand what councillors do now. The project will then look at how to support them better and developing new forms of support, which may be a training package or online set of resources. This new support will then be tested to see if councillors find it helpful, if so, the project team will work with partners to make it available nationally. Through the research and support it si hoped that councillors’ involvement can be better understood in social care and made more effective.


The research will be focused in five local areas, selected to have different structures and populations (city, county and suburban) so that it can be established what councillors are doing in different settings. These will be in the North West of England where there are good existing partnerships.
The research will be in four phases:
• Find out what good practice looks like, reading existing reports on the topic and interviewing people in national roles who have worked with councillors.
• Talk to councillors and others in five local areas to find out what happens now, and what support would help councillors be more effective in shaping social care.
• Develop some support (e.g. training) for councillors to help them get better at shaping social care.
• Test the support with councillors to see if they like it and find it useful. If so, make it available across England.

In designing this proposal and in doing the research, the team includes people with lived experience of using care services for themselves or a family member. There are also partners who run training for councillors and can help to get local authorities to participate in the research.