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Social care

Social care research can change lives by supporting quality of life and independence, and help build a social care system that works for everyone. We support adult social care research in a number of ways.

We fund social care research and offer training and career development for researchers in the specialty. We deliver an extensive network of support to mobilise and enable research across the adult social care sector in a number of settings through our research network.

We provide opportunities for people who use social care services and their families and carers to influence and take part in research.


The NIHR supports patients and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in health and care settings across England, advancing knowledge and improving care. 

Our research recognises the scale, variety and complexity of social care settings in which care is provided in England, such as in residential and nursing homes, in people’s own homes and in other community settings.

NIHR Clinical Research Network

The NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) is made up of 15 local networks and 30 specialty groups that support patients, service users, carers and the public to participate in high quality research taking place in care settings across England. 

Our Study Support Service ensures research studies are delivered on time and to budget. We provide this service for all studies eligible for our support, regardless of location, study type, study size, therapy or research area.   

Research in care homes

The Enabling Research in Care Homes (ENRICH) network is designed to bring together care homes, residents and researchers across the UK to increase the amount of research taking place in care homes and provide better support for that research. The ENRICH network is delivered by the 15 local Clinical Research Networks and is based across the UK. It is free to join.

ENRICH has developed a toolkit for researchers working within the social care sector and a toolkit for care home staff who wish to support or take part in research. The toolkits provide resources and examples of best practice.


Our funding programmes

Our funding programmes fund high quality social care research to understand how to improve social care for everyone. We also provide career development funding awards for social care researchers - see the careers tab for more information.

Research for Social Care (RfSC)

Our annual RfSC call funds research that generates evidence to improve, expand and strengthen the way adult social care is delivered for people who need care and support, carers, and members of the public.

We welcome proposals that demonstrate strong links to people with social care needs, to people who use social care services and carers, and to organisations which provide adult social care services.

Projects should be led by social care researchers and/or professionals as part of a wider multidisciplinary team. We are aware that social care is broad - if you are unsure as to whether a topic is within scope for the call, please contact the RFSC team or submit a pre-submission form for the RSFC call.

Other funding programmes

Our Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme supports research evidence that improves the quality, accessibility and organisation of social care. This programme has specific contributions from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Our commissioned research programmes often seek research proposals on topics related to social care. For example, we’ve held funding calls on interventions to improve the uptake of the influenza vaccination in carers and promoting independence in older and disabled people.

Most of our funding programmes also run funding calls open to research proposals on any topic (researcher-led calls), including research proposals in social care.

We have also previously held themed calls on improving the outcomes of health and social care for frail people and their carers (2018) and complex health and care needs in older people (2017). NIHR themed calls are funding opportunities focusing on a particular research topic, in which all our funding programmes participate.

Got an idea for research in social care? The NIHR Research Design Service can help you turn it into a funding application, offering advice on research design, research methods, identifying funding sources, and involving patients and the public.

School for Social Care Research

The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) is a partnership between seven universities, to develop the evidence base to inform and improve adult social care practice in England by commissioning and conducting internationally leading research.

The school aims to:

  • build research capacity in social care
  • maximise the impact of research
  • improve research methods
  • support social care researchers

Current funding opportunities and projects are advertised on our website, or you can follow the school on Twitter at @NIHRSSCR.

Our Policy Research Units

NIHR Policy Research Units (PRUs) undertake research to inform government and arms-length bodies making policy decisions about health and social care. The units create a critical mass of experts for research in priority areas for health and social care policy.

The following PRUs undertake social care research:

Our portfolio of social care research

You can search and view all the social care research we’ve funded on NIHR Funding and Awards. In addition, a number of our research programmes publish comprehensive accounts of our social care research in the NIHR Journals Library.


Whether you are new to social care research or have worked in research for many years, there are always opportunities to develop your career and shape the future of care research. We provide career support and advice, access to leadership development opportunities, networking events, mentoring and guidance on research funding.

Developing a career in social care research

The NIHR Academy is responsible for the development and coordination of academic training, career development and research capacity development.

The Academy offers a range of training and career development awards available to people from different professional backgrounds. These awards range from predoctoral to research professorship levels and comprise of both personal awards, which can be applied for directly, or institutional awards, which should be applied for through host institutions.

For people with an interest in the field of adult social care, the NIHR Social Care Incubator aims to stimulate, inspire and support to pursue research and practitioner-researcher careers by:

  • enhancing the opportunities for those pursuing, or wanting to pursue, academic careers in the field
  • better provision of, and signposting to career support activities
  • building a community to offer support and share best practice.

Linked to the NIHR Academy, the NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) capacity-building programme offers funding for career development awards, internships and studentships, and delivers training through bespoke workshops.


The NIHR invests significantly in people, centres of excellence, collaborations, services and facilities to support health and care research in England. Collectively these form the world-class NIHR infrastructure.

This national research infrastructure is available to use by UKRI and research charities, as well as NIHR researchers.

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local populations and local health and care systems.

The following ARCs undertake research in social care:

The ARCs also work together nationally on a number of research areas, led by specific ARCs. The NIHR ARC Kent, Surrey and Sussex leads the national ARC effort on social care.



The NIHR funds and supports world-class experts in social care.

In addition, our experts in the NIHR Clinical Research Network (National Specialty Leads) can advise on delivering your social care study.

NIHR Research for Social Care (RfSC) Committee Chair

Professor David Abbott is a Professor of Social Policy in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol where he is also an Associate Director for the NIHR School for Social Care Research. David is also the Chair of the NIHR Research for Social Care Committee.


NIHR Research for Social Care (RfSC) Committee Deputy Chair

Professor Chris Hatton is a Professor of Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University. Chris is also the Deputy Chair of the NIHR Research for Social Care Committee.


National Specialty Lead

Professor Geraldine Macdonald is the National Specialty Lead for Social Care and Professor of Social Work at the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol.


Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR)

Professor Martin Knapp has been Director of NIHR SSCR since 2009.


Twitter handle: @Knappem

Deputy Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research

Professor Yvonne Birks is Deputy Director and Training Lead for NIHR SSCR. She also leads the School’s capacity-building programme and the NIHR Social Care Incubator.

Twitter handle: @birksyvonne

Director of the NIHR Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit 

Professor Jill Manthorpe is Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce and Associate Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research.


Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Adult Social Care 

Dr José-Luis Fernandez is Director of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Adult Social Care (ASCRU) and Director and Associate Professorial Research Fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre at the London School of Economics.


Public involvement

We engage with and involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research in social care.

Have your say in social care research

People in Research is an online list of opportunities for patients and members of the public to get involved in research. On the site, you can sign up to receive an email alert whenever a new opportunity is added that matches your interests.

We also involve patients, carers, service users and members of the public in NIHR’s national research funding and support activities, including in social care.

Taking part in social care research

If you’d like to find research studies relating to social care in the UK, visit Be Part of Research. This website allows members of the public to learn about research, search for a study and be able to contact the study team. By typing in “social care” in the search bar at the top, you can see social care studies taking place across the UK.

Join Dementia Research is a nationwide service, delivered in partnership with leading dementia charities, 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.

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