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HSDR Programme Social Care portfolio


Published: 16 March 2023

Version: 1.0

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The Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme has been funding high quality studies and programmes of work on social care for over 20 years.

Our social care portfolio includes important research to support decision-makers in social work and social care services for children, families and older adults. We also have a long tradition of research in areas such as the integration of health and social care, support for informal carers and studies on and for social work and social care services.

The social care research that we fund draws on a deep and broad knowledge base on:

  • organisational culture
  • delivery of services
  • workforce
  • quality of care and
  • implementation of complex interventions

Over the next two years, we will see important funded outputs from more than £20m of HSDR investment in social care research.

Our Studies

These studies show the features typical of the social care research that we fund.


We supported the DACHA study, a 4 year mixed methods project to develop, test and study implementation of a new national minimum dataset for care homes at £2.6m. This was a large-scale study, rather than local, generating national learning.

Service innovation

Studies on family group conferencing, representing the first large-scale UK evaluation of a new approach to care planning and decisions involving families. Funding has been awarded to 3 research projects on family group conferencing from between £830k to £1.2m.

We have also recently funded (subject to contract) a new social care rapid evaluation centre. This centre will bring together researchers with qualitative and quantitative skills as well as those using, delivering and overseeing social care to assess important service innovations in social care over the next five years.


We have funded 6 adult social care research partnership studies to embed research activity in local authorities. Funding between £1.3-£1.7m was awarded. 

A range of methodologies

From mixed-methods to ethnographic or quantitative as well as evidence syntheses. An example is this review of evidence on strengths-based approaches to social work.

Using existing data


Primary focus on organisation and quality of services, workforce or system-level changes.

Theoretically grounded

Adult social care research partnership studies using different frameworks of knowledge mobilisation, co-production and communities of practice.

Understanding experiences of social care to guide service improvements

Actionable findings, more than purely exploratory or descriptive. This study on improving social care support to combat loneliness collects service user experience data then uses structured co-design and testing of service improvements in multiple sites.

Integrated health and social care

Mindful of existing evidence on integrated health and social care.

Embedded engagement

Embedded engagement with service users, community and partner organisation to test and co-design service support for older people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

Organisational impact

Outcomes do not have to be directly linked to individual service users but might have broader organisational impact. For instance, adult social care research partnerships include a range of outcomes such as an increase in research-active social workers and applications.