Connecting People Exploratory Study
Social capital refers to the resources people can obtain through their connections with others. Although a disputed concept, it has been shown to improve quality of life and may have an impact on recovery from mental health problems. Little is known about how health and social care workers can assist individuals recovering from mental health problems to increase their access to social capital. There is also a lack of research on how workers help individuals develop secure attachments with those in their social networks so that these individuals may harness existing social capital.
Social capital may be a vital ingredient in the recovery of people with mental health problems, but mental health and social care services have limited awareness of its importance. This study aimed to explore how health and social care workers supported people with mental health problems – in particular, young people with psychosis - to develop and mobilise social capital. The study aimed to develop a social intervention which would support people to develop secure attachments and improve their access to social resources in their networks.
The study used ethnographic fieldwork in early intervention in psychosis teams, housing support agencies, and small social inclusion projects supporting people with mental health problems. A researcher conducted observations and interviews with both practitioners and service users to explore good practice in connecting people and mobilising social capital. Focus groups of service users and practitioners developed an intervention model which combined the elements of good practice observed by the researcher. This was reviewed by experts in the field to ensure the intervention model adhered to the theoretical background of social capital. Further fieldwork was undertaken to refine the model and establish its feasibility in practice.
The study found that health and social care agencies are able to support people to enhance their access to social capital via social networks. Practitioners were able to help service users enhance their social connections by supporting them to engage in new activities within their communities. A person-centred approach, which built on service users’ strengths, appeared the most effective way to undertake this.
This exploratory study has helped to understand the importance of:
- developing effective working relationships between practitioners and service users;
- identifying new opportunities for social engagement;
- developing social relationships with resourceful people;
- advising service users on when to mobilize their social capital;
- reflecting with service users on the outcomes of mobilized social capital; and
- using ‘soft’ and ‘instinctive’ intervention skills such as empathy, flexibility, and creativity to underpin their interventions.
The main outcome of the study was the development of the Connecting People model.
The study was conducted by Dr Martin Webber, Hannah Reidy and David Ansari at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.
Dr Martin Stevens (Social Care Workforce Research Unit) and David Morris (University of Central Lancashire) were collaborators.
The study was funded by the NIHR School of Social Care Research.
Webber, M., Reidy, H., Ansari, D., Stevens, M. & Morris, D. (2016) Developing and modelling complex social interventions: introducing the Connecting People Intervention, Research on Social Work Practice, 26 (1), 14-19
Webber, M., Reidy, H., Ansari, D., Stevens, M. & Morris, D. (2015) Enhancing social networks: a qualitative study of health and social care practice in UK mental health services, Health and Social Care in the Community, 23 (2), 180-189
Webber, M. (2014) From ethnography to randomised controlled trial: An innovative approach to developing complex social interventions. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 11 (1-2), 173-182