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NIHR’s annual Research for Social Care call funds over £2 million of new social care research

Published: 13 November 2020

The NIHR’s Research for Social Care call (RfSC) has funded £2.19 million of new research into adult social care, as part of NIHR’s commitment to improving social care through high quality evidence and building capacity for research in this field. 

Eight new projects have been funded, ranging from research into parenting support for young fathers in prison to investigating better ways to identify people who may have problems with gambling. The projects are also diverse in their methods, and together will generate evidence to improve, expand and strengthen the way adult social care is delivered for users of care services, carers and the public.

The funding is part of NIHR’s ongoing efforts to build and improve social care research in England. It complements the NIHR School for Social Care Research, which aims to develop the evidence base for adult social care practice in England, and the new NIHR Social Care Incubator, which provides opportunities for researchers to learn about adult social care, related research and the opportunities that exist for developing research knowledge, skills, networks and projects in the sector.

Mark Harvey and Fran Leddra, Joint-Chief Social Workers for Adults, said: “We’re really encouraged to see the great range of research areas and methodologies funded in this latest Research for Social Care call. By supporting more early-career social care researchers, NIHR is working to build more capacity in this area and generate new evidence to bring real benefits to users of social care services, carers and the public.”

The Research for Social Care call is run annually, and the 2020 round is currently open for applications.


The newly-funded projects from the 2019 call are summarised below.

Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer, University of Exeter - £239,000

Caring for a child with a disability or long-term illness can take a serious toll on parents’ wellbeing. This project aims to explore parent carers’ experience of suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, and self-harm. The researchers want to understand how many parent carers have felt this way, and the factors that contribute to or protect against these experiences, in order to develop better strategies for supporting carers in crisis. They will also gather parent carers’ suggestions for research, practice, and policy on these issues. Carers who need urgent support should contact the Samaritans on 116 123.

Professor Joanne Cook, University of Hull - £323,000

Professor Cook is investigating ‘preventative interventions’ in social care, which are intended to give early support to people using social care services in order to reduce their need to access further services later on. The researchers are looking at the evidence for local area coordination, where coordinators work with people who are at risk of needing social care services, supporting them to engage with their communities and access support resources at the local level, instead of immediately signposting them to social care services.  

Professor Dawn Brooker, University of Worcester - £350,000

Professor Brooker’s research focuses on supporting people with dementia and their carers. Her team is investigating the best way to run dementia Meeting Centres so that they can thrive long term. These are local social clubs for people affected by dementia, run by community groups. They will study three well-established Meeting Centres to see how they have successfully stayed open, to help develop guidance and materials to help other Meeting Centres succeed.

Dr Alex Hall, University of Manchester - £150,000

Dr Hall’s research focuses on what happens when older adults experience difficulties in managing their money. The researchers are investigating how social care practitioners, older adults, and their families attempt to address these difficulties, and how older adults and families can be supported. This project will provide evidence for social care practitioners to develop their skills, as well as producing an information resource for older adults and families who may be looking for help.

Dr Anita Mehay, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust - £191,000

Dr Mehay is adapting an existing, successful parenting programme to help support young fathers in prison. The researchers will work with young men, their families and prison and social care staff to adapt the programme and deliver it in a small group of prisoners. The eventual aim will be to pilot the programme in future studies to find out if it can improve mental wellbeing for young men in prison and their families. 

Dr Marcello Morciano, University of Manchester - £350,000

Dr Morciano’s research focuses on a key element of the NHS Long Term Plan - bringing social care and NHS services together, specifically for care home residents to ensure their complex needs are met. The team aims to identify and classify successful ways to deliver ‘integrated care’ in care homes, and to understand the barriers that can stop this from happening. 

Professor Martin Webber, University of York - £350,000

Professor Webber is looking at social prescribing, which involves providing access to activities and volunteering opportunities to improve wellbeing and reduce social isolation. His team is investigating a new model called Community-Enhanced Social Prescribing, which brings together the networks and resources of local communities to help support people seeking to improve their wellbeing. They will test and evaluate this approach in one voluntary organisation to understand how useful and cost-effective it is.

Ms Caroline Norrie - King’s College London, £240,000

Around 2 million people in Britain have difficulties with their gambling, which can lead to problems including debt, problems and work and in relationships, and poor mental health. Gambling is increasingly viewed as a public health issue and social care staff are being asked to help. Currently, social care staff do not have an evidence-based way of asking people about gambling harm to ensure they can identify and support those who might need help. The researchers aim to develop a validated ‘trigger question’ and use it across three Councils. Findings about numbers of people contacting Councils who are affected by gambling harms can be used to help plan services.  

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