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Dates of existence
The Unit was established in 1973 and has become one of the largest groups of applied social policy researchers in the UK. Since its inception, SPRU has been concerned with research related to policy, service design and delivery, and practice within the broad fields of welfare and health and social care.
On assuming responsibility for the Family Fund, the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust established and provided initial funding for an independent research fellowship in the Department of Social Administration and Social Work at the University of York. The Family Fund Research Project would monitor and evaluate the work of the Fund from its inception and explore the broader research opportunities in social policy presented.
The statistical analysis essential to the Research Project, later the Social Policy Research Unit, was also required by the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust for the effective administration of the Family Fund. The research project began work in August 1973 and immediately assumed responsibility to establish and maintain a database to provide a statistical summary of the circumstances of each family applying to the Fund. The Social Policy Research Unit continued to update and maintain the database, providing analysis for the Fund's administrative use and for its own and other agencies research purposes, until 1993 when the database was transferred from the University to the Family Fund offices. Close links were maintained with the Social Policy Research Unit into the 1990s through the Family Fund Research Advisory Group and the Family Fund Research Committee, and through the secondment of a member of the Social Policy Research Unit to jointly maintain the database alongside a member of Family Fund staff.
More information on the establishment of the Family Fund Research Project and the Family Fund database can be found in Jonathan Bradshaw, The Family Fund: An initiative in social policy (London, 1980); and Lewis E Waddilove Private Philanthropy and Public Welfare: The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust 1954-1979 (London, 1983).