Landscapes of Helping: exploring low intensity support

This research project focuses on the psycho-social dynamics of giving and receiving low intensity support. Low intensity support has been initially defined in the research as informal 'acts of kindness' and helping on the part of individuals and groups in everyday (i.e. non-helping) settings. The research explores how helping acts and relationships are mediated and negotiated and identifies some contextual factors which facilitate or inhibit informal support.

Aims of the research

  • To provide a rich description of low intensity support acts and relationships in everyday settings.
  • To explore individuals’ experience of giving and receiving informal support, including their motivations and concerns.
  • To identify what helps individuals to give and receive 'acts of kindness', including what meanings and values they attach to such acts.
  • To develop case studies of people involved in low intensity support.
  • To provide clear definitions of 'semi-formal' and 'informal' support and develop conceptual tools and frameworks to help clarify the field.
  • To identify how social characteristics such as age, ethnicity, gender and sexuality shape landscapes of helping.

The research is a qualitative and exploratory study using a multi-method approach to data collection including semi structured interviews, observation and biographical narrative interviews We will use a psycho-social framework to help understand the factors involved in the enactment and experience of low intensity support. This approach enables us to attend to issues such as trust, anxiety, fear and uncertainty and how these are mediated by social context and place, and how, in turn, this impacts on the giving and receiving of low intensity support.

The research is a joint collaboration between the Psychosocial Research Unit in the School of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire and Red Consultancy.

Project Lead: Dr. Helen Spandler

Project Staff: Lynn Froggett (UCLan); Yvonne Prendergast and Meg Allen (red Consultancy)

Collaborators and Partners

Psychosocial Research Unit (UCLan) and Red Consultancy

Clients or Funders

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (£70,000)


January 2013 - December 2014

Further information

Helen Spandler 

Ilona Haslewood at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation