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Research funding opportunities for social workers in England

A range of research and funding opportunities are available from Health Education England (HEE) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Health Education England (HEE) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) advertise a range of research and funding opportunities relevant to social work practitioners and managers.

  • A research internship: 38 days of time for engagement with research over a 9-month period + backfill for your employer. (This scheme, unlike the others, is currently only eligible for social workers employed by the NHS.)
  • A year of research time, which can be full time or spread out over 24 or 30 months. This can also be used to undertake a part-time or full-time research masters.
  • A doctoral study, part-time or full-time.

All schemes offer appropriate salary backfill costs for any level of seniority.

These are highly competitive opportunities and rely on considerable preparation prior to application, for example, agreeing arrangements with your employer, preparatory reading for your research topic and preparing to work with potential research collaborators such as experts by experience. The level of preparation is proportional to the award sought, for example, applying for funding for a year of research time will need a higher level of preparation than applying for the research internship. We are therefore advertising these opportunities some six months before the 2022 intake opens and some nine months before the closing date.

As highly competitive opportunities the selection process will take into account prior academic attainment; these selection criteria are determined by the HEE/NIHR – not BASW.

You can find out more about the schemes here.

The development of a successful application usually depends upon support from an experienced Mentor/Supervisor. If you meet the relevant criteria and would be like to explore applying for one of these schemes, depending on your interests BASW may be able to support you in finding a Mentor/Supervisor to help you in preparing your application. Contact Helen Randle helen.randle@basw.co.uk and include a copy of your CV as an attachment and a brief account of which scheme you are interested in and why you would like to access this opportunity. 

Research Internships

This scheme, unlike the others, is currently only eligible for workers employed by the NHS.

What’s on offer?

  • 10 days of face to face learning and 38 days of independent study time to be taken flexibly over 9 months.
  • Completion of a 20 credit Masters level module
  • A payment of £7,500 to the applicant’s employing organisation towards the cost of salary backfill costs, travel and training.

Applicants must:

  • hold a substantive contract of employment with and NHS Trust or other organisation

whose core business is delivery of NHS care as a primary aspect of your professional role

  • hold professional registration e.g. as a social worker
  • not already hold a qualification principally focused on research e.g. Masters in Clinical Research. A pre-registration MSc in social work is not regarded as principally focused on research.

Applicants need to have a Mentor, a social worker or other professional with a minimum Master’s level qualification. Applicants can nominate a Mentor in their application, or apply without a Mentor and will be allocated one.

For more information see: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/clinical-academic-careers/research-internships

The following dates are provisional. Applicants will need to check the relevant websites regularly.

  • Estimated period when applications will open: Late autumn 2021 / early spring 2022
  • Estimated Deadline for receipt of application: May 2022  

A year of 80% research time: this ‘year’ can be spread out part-time over 24 or 30 months

What’s on offer?

  • salary costs (including the employer's contribution to National Insurance and pension) to support the time undertaking the fellowship
  • up to £5,000 towards Masters level training and associated travel and subsistence
  • up to £1,000 for conference/meeting fees and associated travel and subsistence
  • supervision and mentorship costs up to £1,000
  • up to 20% professional development time can be paid for through the award.

Applicants must:

  • Applicants must hold a contract of employment with a provider of health and/or social care services at the point of application (fixed term contracts are acceptable, however, honorary contracts or bank work cannot be accepted). This organisation must provide at least 50% of its services free at the point of delivery and the applicant must be spending at least 50% of their current role delivering health and/or social care services that are free at the point of delivery.
  • hold professional registration e.g. as a social worker, and at least 1 year of practice experience
  • not already hold a PhD

For more information see: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/ica-programme-pre-doctoral-clinical-academic-fellowship-applicant-guidance-notes-round-4-2021/26555

There is also a specific scheme with dedicated funding for Local Authority workers (or those working for organisations commissioned by Local Authorities) in England: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/pre-doctoral-local-authority-fellowship-scheme-applicant-guidance-notes/26693

The following dates are provisional. Applicants will need to check the relevant website regularly.

  • Estimated period when applications will open: Late autumn 2021 / early spring 2022
  • Estimated deadline for receipt of application: March 2022

 A doctoral study

This can be undertaken part-time (36 months) or full-time (up to 72 months). 80% of time will be research; 20% practice.

What’s on offer?

  • salary costs (including the employer's contribution to National Insurance and pension) to support the time undertaking the fellowship
  • PhD fees
  • up to £3,000 for conference/meeting fees and associated travel and subsistence
  • Up to £5,000 of equipment
  • Funds to consult with experts by experience

Applicants must:

  • Applicants must hold a contract of employment with a provider of health and/or social care services at the point of application (fixed term contracts are acceptable, however, honorary contracts or bank work cannot be accepted). This organisation must provide at least 50% of its services free at the point of delivery and the applicant must be spending at least 50% of their current role delivering health and/or social care services that are free at the point of delivery.
  • Hold professional registration e.g. as a social worker, and at least 1 year of practice experience
  • Not already hold a PhD
  • Applicants are expected to have a First Class or Upper Second Class bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Applicants without a First Class or Upper Second Class bachelor’s degree or equivalent must normally have a Masters degree.

For more information see: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/heenihr-integrated-clinical-academic-programme-clinical-doctoral-research-fellowship-scheme-applicant-guidance-notes-round-7-2021/27403

There is also a specific scheme with dedicated funding for Local Authority workers (or those working for organisations commissioned by Local Authorities) in England: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/documents/doctoral-local-authority-fellowship-scheme-applicant-guidance-notes-2021/27386

The following dates are provisional. Applicants will need to check the relevant website regularly.

  • Estimated point when applications will open: Late autumn 2021 / early spring 2022
  • Estimated deadline for receipt of application: June 2022