Assure - Applied Social Science Unit for Research and Evaluation Lancaster University home page
County South, Lancaster University, LA1 4YD, UK
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The Applied Social Science Unit for Research and Evaluation (ASSURE) was established in 1999 to create an exchange between practitioners in the social care and welfare world and those who comment upon it. It is a cross-disciplinary unit that works in partnership with the third and statutory sectors offering them support to carry out their own projects, through capacity building and training, as well as full evaluation and research services.


We have the expertise and flexibility to meet a wide range of needs: from the most complex of assessments to smaller programme evaluations with limited resources. No matter the size of the project, our approach is careful and client-centred. We can offer a standard external evaluation process or engage to a greater degree with stakeholders, practitioners and managers to increase their skill level through structured reflection, analysis and facilitated learning to gain a greater insight into how to monitor and evidence a programme's impact and potential for replication.


ASSURE members consider it important that the commissioning body receives the type of output that is most appropriate to its needs. In some cases this may not be a final report but a series on interim presentations and short ‘feed-back' reports delivered to managers and practitioners. These may be followed up with ASSURE facilitated events to consolidate the findings, consider their implication before moving onto the next stage of development. Other modes and outputs have been developed with stakeholders and practitioners as part of the evaluation process. In several cases these tailor made processes have enabled stakeholders and partnership members to take a greater ownership of the programme that has, in the long term, increased its sustainability.


Complimentary to the evaluation services is programme defined research. This in the past has at times been in response to questions raised by the commissioning body as a result of an evaluation. On other occasion the research has taken the form of research support for those practitioners who wish to do the research themselves – a model currently being promoted by the Big Lottery Fund. These models offer robust research produced through coproduction and partnerships between Lancaster University and people in the community, voluntary, third and statutory sectors.


Once again the outcomes of the process are tailor made to meet the requirements of the commissioning body rather than following academic tradition. In preparation for a super casino bid we conducted a social impact assessment, one of the first of its kind in this country. Following on from this we completed a time limited review of relevant literature on gambling for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Similar scoping exercises have been requested by other bodies since this time.


ASSURE operates in a live environment and it is rare that the reports produced do not have a direct impact on the policy or practice of the commissioning body. In some instances the reports are adopted on government web sites for example the work we did to identify the reasons for young people becoming involved in criminal damage: .

In a number of cases the process has been taken from findings to practice through ASSURE team members into conference, meeting and training facilitation.

ASSURE is available to clients to provide evaluation and research services for a wide-range of areas, including:


  • Third sector service provision
  • Social enterprise
  • Children's Services
  • Social Services
  • Drug Services
  • Policing and police authorities
  • Education
  • Health
  • Transport
  • Community consultation – design, planning and application
  • Youth support – community, youth offending (YOTs) and Youth Offending Institutions (YOI)


In the past we have worked with local authorities, third sector partnerships, the Youth Justice Board, Primary Care Trusts, Police services and Government Offices many of which have returned with requests for further and on-going work.


All members of the ASSURE team have themselves been practitioners in a branch of social, health or criminal justice care and the Department is one of leaders in its field. In the most recent (2001) research assessment exercise we were given a 5 rating for social work (which included criminology). This means we have official recognition that research in this Department is of an international standard.

The Department of Applied Social Science is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences . We have two areas of academic interest: Criminology and Social Work. We run degrees in these subjects and they are the disciplines which inform our research. Through this network of experts in the field and their academic partners we can offer knowledge transfers in the shape of case-study awards at PhD level (for further information contact Dr. Paul Iganski – Telephone 01524 594121).

Dr. Cheryl Simmill-Binning

Director of ASSURE

(Applied Social Science Unit for Research and Evaluation)

Lancaster University



ASSURE web page:

Tel: 01524 594126




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