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Bristol-Open University collaboration wins Peter Townsend memorial book prize

23 August 2011

A book co-authored by Randall Smith, Professor of Social Gerontology in the School for Policy Studies, and colleagues Julia Johnson and Sheena Rolph from The Open University, has won the inaugural Peter Townsend Policy Press Prize.

The book, Residential Care Transformed: Revisiting ‘The Last Refuge’, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in June 2010, and is based on an Economic and Social Research Council-funded research project led by Julia Johnson. It highlights continuities and changes that have taken place in the care home industry since the late 1950s. The book follows on from Peter Townsend’s The Last Refuge, a seminal study of residential care for older people in England and Wales that exposed care homes as a poorly resourced final port of call that should be scrapped and replaced with better domiciliary support for older people or sheltered housing-style schemes.

Professor Townsend was one of the most distinguished global figures in contemporary social policy and sociology, and was formerly Emeritus Professor of Social Policy and Senior Research Fellow in the School for Policy Studies. He had agreed to write a Foreword to the new book, but sadly died in 2009 before the text had been completed. The Peter Townsend Policy Press Prize, supported by the British Academy and The Policy Press, has been established to honour his memory.

The prize is to be awarded by the Academy every two years for outstanding work with policy relevance and academic merit in one of the fields to which Townsend made a major contribution – poverty and inequality, ageing and the lives of older people, disability or inequalities in health. The value of the prize is £2,000.

Professor Smith said: ‘It was very pleasing for us to be nominated for this new award, let alone win the prize. It is a great privilege to hold an award in the name of a very illustrious UK social scientist, who was also a supportive colleague at the University of Bristol. He is much missed.’

The British Academy judging panel said of the book: ‘This study gives us a unique insight into the changing nature of institutional care over half a century. It is methodologically innovative, using older volunteers to help in the research, but it is reflective and self-critical about the limits of its approach - a model for students in the subject. It is beautifully written with moving accounts of the quality of the last years of individuals’ lives. It could not be more relevant to policy in an ageing society.’

The award will be presented on 6 October at a ceremony to include the Academy’s other annual prizewinners.

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