Young people leaving care, practitioners and the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic: Experiences, support, and lessons for the future

In 2020, the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic significantly disrupted daily life for citizens across the UK. The four nations of the UK sought to prioritise public health and the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave new powers to devolved Governments on areas including health, education and justice (Institute for Government 2020). The ensuing ‘lockdown’, announced by the Prime Minister on the 23rd March 2020 ( 2020), was followed by similar directives in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (Institute for Government 2020).

Debates on the necessary responses to the pandemic, together with discussions about its impact, have frequently highlighted concerns for inequalities. For example, Golightly and Holloway (2020: 637) commented that ‘some [individuals] are much better placed than others to get through this’ while Blundell et al (2020 :292) argued that the pandemic ‘will not affect all in the same way … from health to jobs and to family life … the most vulnerable groups by socio-economic background and health status are also those that may be hit the hardest”.

Compounding these concerns, COVID-19 has impacted on the delivery of social services to both adults and children (Ferguson et al 2020). Issues have been raised about maintaining support for vulnerable groups during this time, as well as responding to increased demand for mental health, domestic violence and safeguarding services (Baginsky and Manthorpe 2020).

The pandemic has prompted a flurry of research activity seeking to understand responses to COVID-19, as well as the needs and experiences of individuals both receiving and delivering social care services during these unprecedented times (Baginsky and Manthorpe 2020; Bhatia 2020; Blake-Holmes 2020; Cook and Zschomler 2020; Dafuleya 2020; Ferguson et al 2020; Henrickson 2020; Iyer et al. 2020; Lingam and Sapkal 2020; O’Sullivan et al 2020; Rambaree and Nassen 2020; Sanfelici 2020; Sengupta and Jha 2020; The Fostering Network 2020; Walter-McCabe 2020). This research project predominantly focused on the Welsh context and aims to contribute to this emerging body of evidence, with a specific focus on the needs, support and experiences of young people leaving local authority care.