Start date:
April 2016
End date:
March 2018
Economic and Social Research Council


The study carried out analysis of existing secondary sources of quantitative data in order to investigate levels of social capital within communities in relation to changing levels of provision of key public services.

The  study built on research conducted in Phase 1 of WISERD on the use of enhanced two step floating catchment area (E2SFCA) techniques to examine small area variations in accessibility. This study investigated the use of large scale government social surveys as the primary source of data on social capital using different methodologies. The survey questions used to examine different facets of social capital were critically assessed in relation to the research questions posed above. A subset was used to further investigate potential associations with small area variations in accessibility to services.

Furthermore this review also included a review of sources and methods used in other international contexts drawing on alternative approaches to estimating small area variations in social capital. In addition, the project took advantage of the data linkage work undertaken as part of the ESRC funded Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ADRC Wales) at WISERD@Cardiff and Swansea to investigate the potential of utilising administrative data to supplement national survey data in the construction of small area data of social capital. 

Research Questions

  • Which communities have high levels of social capital which could be harnessed to substitute for government or private provision and run services through community-based initiatives or help save facilities at risk of closure?
  • Which areas have lower levels of social capital where existing levels of voluntarism or self-help are insufficient to respond to changes in provision leading to the possibility of increased spatial and social inequalities in accessibility to services?


  • Six academic papers have been written up based on this research so far in journals such as AREA, Health and Place, Politics and Space,  Applied Geography, Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy (see publications list below)
  • Four WISERD blog posts have been published on this research (see list and links below)

Research team
Scott Orford
WISERD Data Portal and Research Data Co-ordinator
Cardiff University
Nicholas Page
Research Associate
Cardiff University

Journal Articles
Exploring the relationship between local volunteering opportunities and the propensity to volunteer using a nationally representative survey of adults in Wales
This study explored the respective importance of compositional (individual) and contextual (neighbourhood) factors associated with the propensity to engage in formal volunteering among a nationally representative sample of adults in Wales, UK. To date, while certain...
Journal Articles
Exploring spatiotemporal variations in public library provision following a prolonged period of economic austerity: A GIS approach
Area 52(2) pp 342-353 This paper demonstrates the applicability of GIS tools for investigating the implications of changes in public service provision following a prolonged period of economic austerity in the UK. Using the example of geographical accessibility to public...
Journal Articles
Using Geographic Information Systems to investigate variations in accessibility to ‘extended hours’ primary healthcare provision
Abstract There are ongoing policy concerns surrounding the difficulty in obtaining timely appointments to primary healthcare services and the potential impact on, for example, attendance at accident and emergency services and potential health outcomes. Using the case study...
Journal Articles
Investigating spatial variations in access to childcare provision using network‐based Geographic Information System models
A “flagship” policy outlined in the current Welsh Government's 2016 Programme for Government aims to provide 30 hours of free early education and childcare per week to the working parents of three‐ and four‐year‐olds. However, in common with many other countries, there is...
Journal Articles
An exploratory analysis of spatial variations in organ donation registration rates in Wales prior to the implementation of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013
Spatial variations in rates of registered organ donors have not been studied in the UK at detailed spatial scales despite some evidence of national and regional differences. By drawing on the findings from the existing literature, this study examines associations between...
Journal Articles
Assessing the Impacts of Changing Public Service Provision on Geographical Accessibility: an examination of public library provision in Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Public libraries make an important contribution to the wellbeing of local people often acting as community hubs by reducing the isolation felt by vulnerable members of society through promoting social interaction and supporting the wider needs of local communities. However...
Journal Articles
Mapping the interview transcript: identifying spatial policy areas from daily working practices
Article in the Area journal. Abstract An interview transcript can be a rich source of geographical references whose potential are not always fully realised in their conventional analysis. Geo-referencing techniques can be used to assign a spatial footprint to place names...
Journal Articles
Accessibility and public service provision: Evaluating the impacts of the Post Office Network Change Programme in the UK
The importance of public service provision and accessibility in shaping government policies aimed at enhancing social inclusion and ensuring social justice in the UK is well founded. The capabilities of GIS for generating information to address such concerns have facilitated...

Themes: Civil Society