Social Care Research Ethics Committee


When the HRA became a Non Departmental Public Body on 1 January 2015 we took formal responsibility for research in adult social care. The Social Care REC and its secretariat transferred to the HRA on 1 April 2015. The Social Care REC was previously hosted by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) for six years. We are currently looking to expand the number of RECs in England which can review social care research.

Resource page

The National Social Care REC reviews adult social care research study proposals, intergenerational studies involving adults and children or families and some proposals for social science studies situated in the NHS. It generally expects to review the following types of study:

  1. Social care studies funded by Department of Health
    • Research commissioned directly through the Policy Research Programme
    • Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) studies (i.e. those to be designed by IC for implementation by Councils with Adult Social Services Responsibilities, who do not then individually need to seek additional review)
    • Studies commissioned by or through National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research
    • Social care studies funded (in rare cases) through NIHR
  2. Social care research that involves people lacking capacity in England and Wales and requires approval under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Social Care REC is recognised by the Secretary of State as an Appropriate Body for this purpose
  3. Social care research involving sites in England and another United Kingdom country
  4. “Own account” research undertaken by Councils with social services responsibilities, where the Chief Investigator and/or sponsor feels there are substantial ethical issues
  5. Studies of integrated services (health and social care), provided that there is no clinical intervention involved
  6. Studies taking place in NHS settings with patients or staff where the approach to data collection uses social science methods, provided that the research involves no change in treatment or clinical practice
  7. Other social care studies not suitable for review by other NHS RECs, subject to the capacity of the Social Care REC. This could include service user-led research
  8. Intergenerational studies in social care where both adults and children, or families, are research participants.
  9. Research which involves changes in participants’ care or even the withdrawal of some aspect of their care.

The Social Care REC does not consider any research involving clinical interventions. Such research should be reviewed by another appropriate NHS REC.

Applications to the Social Care Research Ethics Committee are expected to fall into one of the IRAS categories below:

  • Basic science study involving procedures with human participants
  • Study administering questionnaires/interviews for quantitative analysis, or using mixed quantitative/qualitative methodology
  • Study involving qualitative methods only
  • Study limited to working with data (specific project only)
  • Research database


Social care research does not require review by the Social Care REC if it is reviewed by another committee operating in accordance with the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC’s) Framework for Research Ethics, unless the categories above apply or the research involves NHS patients, people who use services or people who lack capacity as research participants. Other student research within the field of social care should ordinarily be reviewed by a university REC (UREC). If a UREC review is not available to a student, they can contact the manager for advice.

Research governance framework: Resource pack for social care (2nd Edition – April 2010)

The purpose of the resource pack is to assist councils with social services responsibilities to fulfil their role in ensuring that research involving their clients or staff is carried out in an ethical and sound way. The pack sets out clearly how to establish transparent systems to approve, record and monitor research activity. It explains why research governance is necessary and what it means in practice. It includes a section on frequently asked questions and gives examples of how different councils have set up research governance systems. It summarises the relevant legislation and provides some practical tools for reviewing research proposals.

Applications to the Social Care REC are created in IRAS and are booked through the Social Care REC manager.