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Research Support Service Specialist Centre for Social Care

Hosted by the RSS Hub delivered by Lancaster University in partnership with the Universities of Liverpool (including Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre), Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan

The partnership provides national leadership and co-ordination of expertise and wider specialist networks to develop and deliver innovative social care research.

This centre has a breadth of interdisciplinary experts at the forefront of social care research who work collaboratively to offer a range of research support services. They are passionate about supporting social care research that is:

  • Inclusive by embedding equity, equality and diversity, and reducing power differentials by sharing power with participants
  • Shaped by diverse public involvement by incorporating the voice of people needing or drawing on social care, family carers, the social care workforce and members of the public, working collaboratively and in partnership with people and communities to co-produce research
  • Environmentally sustainable, offering expert advice on how to integrate sustainable social care principles into research projects.

Research Programme for Social Care 

If you have a research idea and are planning on submitting an application to the new Research Programme for Social Care (RPSC), please get in touch for advice and support to develop your proposal. 


The NIHR RPSC team held a webinar for the RPSC Call 2 on  4 April 24. View the webinar recording on YouTube.

Does our experience and expertise match your research needs?

Look through the research specialties and additional support available below. 

Who we support

Whilst support is provided to social care researchers across England, particularly welcomed are: social care practitioners, social workers, allied health professionals, individuals within local authorities, representatives from the voluntary sector, organisations led by people drawing on social care, social care service providers, social care nurses, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as members from rural, coastal and urban communities, ethnic minority communities and other underserved groups.

Social care researchers are supported from pre-application through to post-application research grant stages, and have opportunities for collaboration with a diverse team of world-leading researchers and methodologists.

Research strengths and areas of expertise

This specialist centre’s experts have experience in a broad range of social care research, including with:

  • people with long-term conditions
  • people with fluctuating impairments
  • people with learning disabilities
  • autistic people
  • people with dementia
  • people with mental health issues
  • people who are growing older

Support is provided across the diverse range of services and situations relevant to social care research, including:

  • adult social care departments of local authorities
  • care homes
  • home care
  • the criminal justice system and secure estate
  • mental health social care and statutory work
  • cultural competence
  • research that explores or identifies social care outcomes related to the Care Act

The RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care also provides cutting-edge expertise for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) undertaking research in support of social care. The centre’s experts will challenge and support SMEs to understand current care pathways, the nature and scale of the challenges in the system in terms of health, wellbeing and economy, and how their innovative solutions can change things for the better.

Experts have experience working with policy-makers, commissioners and investors and in-depth knowledge of health economics and implementation science. They can offer expertise in the application of research methods for the evaluation of complex interventions to provide advice on the research approach and study design, recognising the requirement for SMEs to be agile and the possible need to demonstrate impact faster than academic-led research.

Methodological expertise

The centre provides a wide range of methodological expertise from leading experts across the partnership, including core research methods expertise:

  • economic evaluations, oriented specifically towards social care
  • theory of change and programme logic models
  • routinely collected data, including linked social care / NHS data
  • surveys
  • mixed methods
  • the full range of qualitative methodologies 
  • realist approaches
  • implementation pathways
  • research impact
  • creativity and participatory methods
  • co-production
  • trials and evaluation design    

Research support

The RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care offers social care researchers a wide range of research support, including:

  • formulating research questions and appropriate study designs
  • supporting research co-production and approaches to partnership working with different stakeholders and organisations
  • facilitating multidisciplinary collaborators
  • identifying and applying to appropriate funding sources: 
    • advice on preparing research grant applications and costings
    • critical review
    • responding to research funding committee feedback
  • offering advice on the scope of research questions and their fit to different funding programmes
  • supporting researchers who are new to social care research.

 The centre is also able to provide research delivery support, such as:

  • advice and signposting
  • troubleshooting
  • ethical and governance approval
  • recruitment
  • data analysis
  • establishing pathways to collaboration
  • practice evaluation
  • dissemination       

To support leading-edge, interdisciplinary social care research delivery there are also opportunities for collaboration with our world-leading researchers and methodologists, including signposting to our wider expertise networks.

Contact us

If you would like support from the NIHR RSS Specialist Centre for Social Care, please complete this form or email us at to tell us a little about yourselves and your research ideas.

We support social care researchers with all levels of expertise and experience.