Research governance requirements for social care research

Research studies involving the staff, carers and/or service users of social care services that are provided by a local authority (including any organisations providing services under contract on behalf of a local authority) or a prison health service, are subject to the requirements of the UK policy framework for health and social care research, in the same way as healthcare research involving the NHS.

Local authorities with social care responsibilities are required to have a research governance framework in place for any research they are involved with. This includes, as a minimum, ensuring that independent checks for ethics and scientific quality are made, and a record kept locally. The ways in which local authorities have implemented the policy framework differ, but a lead research governance contact should be in place.

Researchers wishing to undertake research involving social care services in a particular local authority will need to liaise with the identified research governance contact to ensure that the authority’s requirements with respect to research governance are met, and approval issued (in a similar way that researchers wishing to undertake research within a particular NHS Trust will need to work with the research governance office to meet necessary requirements).

If research involves an organisation sub-contracted by the local authority to provide social care services, then the research would need to be approved by the local authority as well as the sub-contracted organisation.

Evidence of the research approval(s) from the relevant authority/service(s) must be obtained, and provided (along with other necessary approvals) as part of the standard University’s Research Governance Procedure.

Ethical review of social care research

Certain types of social care research require ethical review by a ‘flagged’ NHS Research Ethics Committee via the HRA approval process (such as those funded by the Department of Health). Further details can be found on the HRA website.

If NHS Research Ethics Committee review is not required, studies can be ethically reviewed via a University ethics review process, as long as this is ‘operating in accordance with the ESRC’s Framework for Research Ethics’. The ESRC’s Framework has specific requirements relating to the composition of ethics review panels, particularly in relation to the need for a lay/external member to be appointed to review applications. A process already exists to facilitate this within the University’s ethics review system, and the need for it can be flagged within the ethics application.  Further details are available on applying for University ethics approval.