There is growing interest in the role of social care in the prevention agenda, as outlined in health and social care policy.

Skills for Care commissioned research to learn more about the scope of prevention activity across the adult social care sector. We’re using this report with strategic partners to stimulate debate and discussion, identify the workforce development implications of working in a preventative way and explore how the sector can build on and embed best practice.

The research (2019)

The aims of the research were to:

  • provide an overview of the published and unpublished literature relating to prevention in social care
  • consult with stakeholders to understand more about engagement with the prevention agenda
  • identify examples of practice in England to learn more about how prevention is working in social care
  • explore how preventative work is linked to commissioning processes.

Download the research report here

We found that there’s emerging good practice and increased partnership working to deliver preventative work in social care. However, there’s a lot more to learn about the changing landscape and to promote the valued role of social care in prevention activities.  

What are we doing next?

We’re doing further research with adult social care commissioners and providers to explore preventative practice in the sector and how we can ensure that the workforce is supported to develop their skills and knowledge to work in this way.  

Our research so far has found that adult social care employers define prevention in four main areas.

  • Supporting people to live as healthily as possible, both mentally and physically
  • Reducing the use of health services, including primary care, emergency services and hospitals
  • Preventing or reducing the escalation of health issues
  • Supporting people to remain as independent as possible.

This research is part of a wider project, working alongside Public Health England, to develop a better understanding of prevention activity within adult social care, raise awareness of resources to help and to inform future workforce development. (Please note, this research has been postponed whilst the sector responds to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be resumed at an appropriate time over the coming months.)

Download a presentation of the key findings of the research so far. 

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Prevention is all about stopping health problems from arising in the first place and supporting people to manage their health problems when they do arise.

The government set out their vision for putting prevention at the heart of the nation’s health in the paper, ‘Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer’ (2018).

The vision states that:

"Prevention is about helping people stay healthy, happy and independent for as long as possible. This means reducing the chances of problems from arising in the first place and, when they do, supporting people to manage them as effectively as possible. Prevention is as important at seventy years old as it is at age seven."

The government has published a consultation green paper ‘Advancing Our Health: prevention in the 2020’s’ (2019) which sets out how it plans to embed the vision and tackle the causes of preventable ill health in England.    

The Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 includes responsibilities for local authorities to promote wellbeing, which must include a focus on delaying and preventing care and support needs and supporting people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

The NHS Long Term Plan (2019)

The ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ (2019) sets out long term priorities for better care, quality and outcomes for people who need care and support, and advocates a whole system approach to prevention, with increased action on prevention and reductions in health inequalities.


People working in adult social care are well placed to support the prevention agenda by working in preventative ways. They play a key part in promoting independence, enabling people to live the life that they choose, and recognising people’s strengths and the importance of family, friends and communities – all of which can reduce the risk of health problems and/or delay the need for care and support.

The Care Act breaks prevention down into three categories:

  • Primary prevention (prevent): aimed at individuals that have no current health or care support needs. These services may help an individual to avoid the need for care and support.
  • Secondary prevention (delay): aimed at individuals that have an increased risk of developing health or care support needs. These services may slow down further deterioration or prevent other needs from developing. 
  • Tertiary prevention (reduce): aimed as individual that have an existing disability, health condition and/or complex needs. These services may minimise the effect of their condition, and could involve supporting people to regain skills and reduce the need for care and support.

Adult social care services and staff can have an impact across all three categories, depending on the level of care and support that they provide.

Regulatory standards

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) promotes working in preventative ways to deliver better outcomes under the ‘effective’ and ‘responsive’ key lines of enquiry. This means that adult social care employers need to take action, to ensure that their services meet regulatory standards.

How can Skills for Care help?

Skills for Care is working with Public Health England and other partners, to ensure that the adult social care workforce has the right skills and knowledge to embed the prevention agenda in their practice. We’ll publish the findings of this work in 2020 and use it to inform workforce development activities.