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Social care

We are a major funder of social care research in England. Since 2006, we have awarded more than £200 million to social care research projects. 

We support research across social care and social work in many ways:

  • fund research and offer training and career development for researchers
  • deliver a network of support to enable research across the social care sector
  • provide opportunities for carers, social care practitioners, people who draw on social care services and their families to influence and take part in research

We also work with other funders in this space, such as the Economic and Social Research Council and the Health Foundation.

Help us with research

Explore opportunities for carers, people who need care and support and their families to influence and take part in research.

What is social care research?

Social care aims to help people remain independent, retain their dignity and achieve a better quality of life. The research we support works to find ways to improve people’s lives and help them live well.

Our research covers topics such as: mental capacity and personal finances, supporting parents with learning disabilities, topics related to adults with dementia and their carers.

Explore our research

We provide libraries and evidence databases that publish and promote research findings.

A full list of active and completed NIHR funding awards is available on the Funding and Awards website.

Social care research funding

We fund social care research studies through our different funding calls.  One of our main funding streams for social care research is the Research Programme for Social Care. This £10m funding programme launched in 2023 and funds studies such as this one into those who self-fund their social care.

Our Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme offers funding for evaluative research to improve social care services. It is open to applications all year round and advertises priority social care topics. 

Social care research projects are also funded via our Health Technology Assessment Programme. This programme looks at cost-effectiveness and the broader impact of treatments, such as this study into assistive technology to maintain independent living.

Funding for projects which inform social care policy making can be awarded via our Policy Research Programme.

View the list of open and active social care funding calls on our funding opportunities page.

If you're completely new to research and don't know where to start, or thinking about how to develop a research idea, free support and advice is available from the Research Support Service.

Adding social care research to your career

We provide opportunities for practitioners and professionals to develop a career in social care research.

These opportunities include short placements, longer-term fellowships and integrated programmes to support those combining research with continued practice and professional development.

Explore more on our social care practitioners page.

Working with partners

Social care services are supported and delivered by a range of organisations and local authorities. Across the NIHR, we have successful working relationships with providers, commissioners and care organisations.

An example of one of our charity partnerships is our work with Autistica. We partnered with them to fund research into how to provide safe and effective social care for autistic adults.

Such partnerships are essential to ensure that research addresses the needs of carers and people who draw on social care services.

Explore more in our charities section.

School for Social Care Research

The school is a partnership between seven universities to develop the evidence base to inform and improve adult social care practice in England. Find out more about its work, events and training opportunities.

Local authorities

Explore how we work with local authorities and the support we offer to help build research capacity.