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Research Programme for Social Care

The NIHR Research Programme for Social Care (RPSC) call is a bi-annual competition specifically for social care proposals. 

The aim of RPSC is to fund research that generates evidence to increase the effectiveness of social care services, provides value for money and benefits people who need or use social care services, and carers. Research will cover both adults and children's social care.

RPSC replaced NIHR's Research for Social Care call (RfSC) in September 2023. The final RfSC call was Call 7. For further information about this, please see the relevant call documents.

Latest funding opportunities for Research Programme for Social Care

All social care funding opportunities


The Research Programme for Social Care encourages applications from researchers from all stages of their careers, and includes a sub stream for early career researchers as well as funding for capacity building. 

Proposals should demonstrate appropriate research expertise, and teams should have a track record of relevant published research.

RPSC invites applications from higher education institutions, charities, local authorities/governments and relevant third sector organisations in all four nations of the UK.

What do we fund?

RPSC funds research that generates evidence to improve, expand and strengthen the way social care is provided for users of care services, carers, the social care workforce, and the public across the UK. Please read the full scope for further details.

How long and how much?

The amount awarded and the length of the funding period depends on the nature of the proposed work. Strong justification for the research duration and funding requested is required and will be considered by the reviewing committee.

RPSC also offers opportunities for early career researchers to apply for applications up to £250,000, providing they are supported by an appropriate team which is suitably resourced. These applications will be reviewed by the assessing committee but will not be in direct competition with larger awards or those from non-early career researchers.

As part of NIHR's drive to develop research capacity, RPSC is offering the opportunity to develop and advance social care research capacity building. Applicants to RPSC can include funding for research capacity development, across all stages of the academic career pathway (i.e., from internships to Masters to PhD to post-doctoral), As a general rule, it is anticipated that 10% to 20% of the overall project programme grant budget should be spent on capacity building within the grant, however each request will be reviewed on its merits. More information can be found in the capacity building guidance.

For more information, see the stage 1 finance guidance.

When is funding available?

RPSC has two researcher-led calls per year and also operates commissioned calls on priority highlight topics. See the dates for our funding competitions.

How to apply

All RPSC calls typically use a two stage application process. Please see the applicant guidance for stage 1 and application guidance for stage 2 to find out more.

Applicants considering submitting a stage 1 application may wish to submit an outline of their proposal for guidance before official submission. This can be done using the pre-submission form. This is not mandatory and purely aimed at helping potential applicants to engage with the requirements of the call (e.g. eligibility and remit).

Research proposals are submitted to RPSC online through the Research Management System. We supply Word document versions of the online application Stage 1 form and Stage 2 form, to help researchers prepare their proposal ahead of submission.

Advice and support is available from the NIHR Research Support Service  to develop your research proposal.

If you are applying as a Local Authority, you can find out more information on our Local Authorities page.

If you are applying as a Charity, you can find out more information on our Charities page.

What we fund

Applications through the Research Programme for Social Care should have:

  • A clear pathway to social care benefit that could be immediate or over a longer-term
  • A strong link with people who need or use social care, carers and organisations which provide social care services or other relevant groups
  • An appropriate team, likely consisting of social care researchers, members of the social care workforce, carers, methodologists and people who use social care, reflecting the nature of the application

We are aware that social care is broad. If you are unsure as to whether a topic is within scope for the programme, please see the call specificationcontact the team or submit a pre-submission form. We also suggest consulting our logic model, to understand the intended outcomes of the programme, and consider how your topic links to this.

Our people

Our programme director

Professor Martin Knapp is Director of the Research Programme for Social Care. 

Our funding committee

RPSC is a UK-wide programme open to applicants in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Applications are reviewed by a committee comprising social care experts, methodologists, public and practitioner members.

Committee members review all stage 1 and stage 2 applications and make funding recommendations based on the quality of applications, with support from expert peer reviewers.

The committee recommends projects for funding to the Department of Health and Social Care, which approves the projects to be funded.

Members of NIHR committees are required to declare any interests which conflict, or may be considered to conflict, with NIHR business, or may be perceived as influencing decisions made in the course of their work within NIHR programmes. All members are asked to complete the Register of Interest form (annually), which is intended to capture long term predictable interests that could be perceived to lead to conflicts of interest. These and other interests are judged on a case by case basis at individual meetings.

View our current funding committee A and funding committee B.

NIHR registry of interests

Interested in joining one of our committees? View our committee vacancies.

Contact us

We offer a wide variety of assistance during all stages of the research process. If in doubt, please get in touch. 

If you would like the team to comment briefly on your research plan please complete the presubmission form. If you have a query not answered in the above documents, please check the FAQs,

Tel: 020 8843 8057
Our operating hours are 9am to 5pm.

For support to develop your research proposal contact the NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care. The RSS Specialist Centre works nationally to provide free and tailored advice to social care researchers of all levels and experience, offering a broad range of methods expertise and research support, including expert advice on public involvement and developing and delivering inclusive research that incorporates the voice of service users, carers and practitioners.