The Coronavirus (COVID 19) Pandemic: Young People leaving care and practitioners share their experiences and lessons for the future

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has had a major impact across the world, with a disproportional impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. This research study was designed to contribute to the emerging evidence base exploring both the receipt and delivery of social care support during this period.

The research study was funded by Voices from Care Cymru and CASCADE: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre. It offered a platform for the views of 21 care experienced young who provided vivid and detailed accounts of their experiences of lockdown. The inclusion of a professional survey with 23 participants enabled consideration of local initiatives providing a valuable backdrop for analysis of young people’s accounts. The study therefore provides important learning for policy makers, social care managers and front-line practitioners who work with care experienced young people and other vulnerable groups.

Encouragingly, the study revealed positive attempts to adapt to the unprecedented working conditions. It was noteworthy that the professionals who responded to our survey were positive about the support that they had provided to care leavers. Efforts to maintain communication with young people, combat loneliness, isolation and boredom, as well as ensure access to resources demonstrated good practice. However, it was noted that efforts to respond to the needs of young people were constrained by the absence of additional funding.

The perspectives of young people sometimes stood in sharp contrast to those of professionals and concerns remain about parity of support within and across areas, and the alignment between support needs and available provision. Our findings did not suggest consultation and inclusion of young people in decision making about new ways of working, and the focus appeared to be on immediate and short-term crisis needs, as opposed to transition planning or taking a rights-based approach. Of particular concern were reports of young people anxious about basic provisions, living in inappropriate accommodation and struggling with absence of mental health support.

However, despite these issues young people valued contact from social workers and social care professionals and positioned this as essential in the COVID-19 pandemic, as illustrated in this poem from one of the care experienced young people who participated in the study.

Times have changed, time is passing,
But our need for you to care is not lapsing,
We may whinge and shout and say we don’t want,
But we do, we really want you to.
We are isolated, changed and really not sure,
We need that face, the one we say we dislike
we need those texts that we never reply to,
We need the language that you share, they hey,
`how are you doing, I am still here’,
This is the real language that cares, the language we need,
The language which shows us not everything has changed,
The language that comforts us, like a weird aunt would send
Which would make us cringe, and smile,
A smile which means something hasn’t changed
-the language you use to show us you care.

You can also watch the Care Leavers and Coronavirus film about the key findings:

We would be pleased to hear from you with any feedback, comments, or suggestions:

Louise Roberts, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University RobertsL18@cardiff.ac.uk @DrLouiseRoberts

References

Roberts, L., Rees, A., Bayfield, H., Corliss, C., Diaz, C., Mannay, D. and Vaughan, R. 2020. Young people leaving care, practitioners, and the coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic: experiences, support, and lessons for the future. Cardiff: Cardiff University.