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Social care

The NIHR has widened its focus to include social care research that aims to improve the quality of life for users and carers through better social care provision and practice.

We spend nearly £30 million a year on social care research through our funding programmes and training and career development.

We also deliver research in care homes and hospices, and involve people who need care and support and carers in our work.

We fund social care research

Our research programmes

In 2018, the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme ran a funding round specifically for research proposals from the front line of adult social care. RfPB now runs a dedicated Research for Social Care funding call every year - the 2019 call is open and you can apply now online.

The NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) programme also supports rigorous and relevant evidence in order to improve the quality, accessibility and organisation of health and social care.

Our School for Social Care Research

The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) aims to increase the evidence-base for adult social care practice. The School brings together leading academic centres in England demonstrating excellence in social care research, and complements NIHR funding streams.

SSCR carries out primary research in the adult social care sector in England. It covers the delivery of social care by professional and non-professional staff working in both statutory and independent sectors. It includes research by social care professionals as well as academics, and encourages the active involvement of people who need care and support, carers and practitioners.

In 2018 we announced that we had awarded £20 million to continue funding SSCR through to 2024.

Our policy research

We fund policy research to enable policy makers in government and arms-length bodies to make informed decisions about social care in England.

A number of our Policy Research Units undertake social care research, including:

Our partnerships in social care research funding

We have partnered with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to boost social science research in dementia.

The ESRC-NIHR Dementia Research Initiative aims to create a step change in social science funding of dementia from small projects to a critical mass of expertise.

In 2018 we awarded £15 million of funding to four projects to improve the lives of people living with dementia. The 2018 funding follows an earlier 2012 joint initiative that provided £20 million for six research projects on dementia interventions and care. 

We support social care researchers

Our 2018 investment into the NIHR School for Social Care Research includes £1.8 million for training social care researchers

SSCR will work deliver this training in partnership with the NIHR Academy incubator initiative. NIHR Incubators to support capacity building and multidisciplinary career development in priority areas where critical mass is low.

The new NIHR Social Care incubator will create a community in social care research.

In addition, SSCR has recently announced its first ever round of social care PhDs.

Our Research Design Service helps researchers develop proposals for social care research to secure funding from our research programmes.

We deliver social care research

The NIHR Clinical Research Network helps researchers deliver studies in social care, having recently expanded its eligibility criteria for support to non-NHS settings. We can now support health and social care research in care homes, schools, nurseries, police stations and other community settings.

Research in care homes

The NIHR Enabling Research in Care Homes (ENRICH) programme aims to bring together care homes, residents and researchers to increase the amount of research taking place in care homes and provide better support for that research.

By offering a toolkit and examples of best practice, the programme aims to improve the quantity and quality of research in care homes and the quality of care for care home residents.

Research in hospices

The NIHR Clinical Research Network has established the Consortium for Hospice and Community Research, to increase recruitment from the hospice and community sectors to research studies supported by the network.

The Consortium was first launched in April 2017 with the aim to make the UK a global leader in palliative care research within five years. We’ve partnered with Hospice UK, Macmillan, Maggie’s, Marie Curie, NCRI, Target Ovarian Cancer, Sue Ryder and Teenage Cancer Trust.

If you or your organisation is interested in joining the Consortium please contact the Consortium Manager Shamaila Anwar.

We involve people who use social care services

Setting research priorities for social care

In 2018, the James Lind Alliance brought together service users, carers and members of the public with social care practitioners in a Priority Setting Partnership to determine which uncertainties about adult social care matter most.

The resulting top 10 priorities for adult social work research aim to help make sure future research answers the questions that are most important to social workers and those who are in contact with them.

The priorities cover a broad range of themes and issues for adult social workers. They will help to improve understanding of the social work approaches and interventions that work and why, and help to achieve the best outcomes for people and their carers.

Read the full report on the top 10 priorities for adult social work research.

Helping people take part in social care research

Be Part of Research is an online service that helps people understand what research is and what taking part might involve, as well as help people find research studies happening throughout the UK and volunteer to take part. You can use the search tool to look for current social care studies and filter by location to find studies near you.

Join Dementia Research is a nationwide service, delivered in partnership with leading dementia charities, that is helping to accelerate vital dementia research in the UK. Working like a matchmaking service, patients and carers can register their details and a researcher will be in touch when an appropriate study becomes available. People with dementia or memory problems, their carers and anyone who is interested can sign up. You can sign up online, over the phone or by post.

Find out more about participating in social care research.

We support evidence-based decision making about social care

NIHR Evidence selects, summarises and explains important social care research funded by the NIHR and others to improve health and care decisions.

Our Help at Home themed review brings together research evidence from the NIHR and other funders on assistive technology to enable older people to live at home independently. The review highlights services and systems issues and summarises evidence on remote monitoring and the design of better domestic and built environments.

While technology will never replace the human touch of caring, enhancing care through new technologies can offer real benefits to older people and their families. We need the right research to know which technologies for which people will really help them stay well at home
Alice Roe, Professionals & Practice Programme Officer, Age UK

Our Advancing Care themed review brings together NIHR research on improving the health and care of care home residents, highlighting ongoing research and new approaches.

Research can help care homes to support residents to live well, age well and to achieve a comfortable and dignified death. There is more to be done, but this report shows how research is addressing some of the real challenges for those working and living in homes
Professor Martin J Vernon, National Clinical Director for Older People and Person Centred Integrated Care, NHS England