Support staff question research findings, professional knowledge or training if not from directly working with service user in question


As you know, the Elf service exists to ensure that the best current knowledge is made available to support staff. It is possible to see from our tag cloud that we cover a good deal of material produced that relates to supporting people described as having challenging behaviour. We know that staff skills, competence and knowledge base are key components of successfully supporting people, but the researchers in this study raised the question about how far findings from the research literature are applicable across settings and therefore how they might influence staff behaviour if the findings are not directly related to the individual staff are supporting?

What they did was to carry out a series of semi-structured interviews with fourteen staff to ask about their views and experiences of knowledge development.

They analysed the content of these interviews using thematic network analysis.

  • What they found was three global themes;
  • skills are developed from experience,
  • service aims influence service delivery
  • practice is more important than theory.

They found that staff believed that the relationships between staff and people they supported had a central role in enabling the development of knowledge. Staff expressed the view that some skills might be transferable. Staff suggested however that their experience of a particular service user was the essential component of knowledge development.

The authors conclude that support staff “may not see the relevance of research findings, professional knowledge or training, unless these have involved direct work with the service user in question.”
Staff Views of the Importance of Relationships for Knowledge Development: Is Training by Specialists a Waste of Money? Bradshaw J & Goldbart J in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 26: 284–298

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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