The adult social care sector covers a wide range of settings which collectively employ around 1.3 million workers. It provides services ranging from domiciliary day care to residential care; and from drug and alcohol addiction services to the employment of personal assistants by people with disabilities. There are some 95 000 registered social workers and registered social work students across all settings. In recent years the profile of social care, and with it social care research, has been considerably enhanced through the recognition by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of social work as a discipline, the creation within the Department of Health (DH) of the Directorate of Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships and the appointment of a Minister of State for Care Services at Cabinet level. The case has long been argued by practitioners and researchers in the social care community for a dedicated social care research ethics review process.