University to investigate the impact of Covid-19 on young care leavers

Thu 03 December, 2020
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A team of academics from the University of Bedfordshire have secured £297k of funding to study how teenage care leavers have been impacted by the knock-on effects of the pandemic.

Led by Principal Investigator, Professor Emily Munro, Director of the University’s Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work & Social Care, the ‘Care leavers, Covid-19 and the Transition from Care’ (CCTC) research project is being jointly funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (ECRC), part of UK Research & Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

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Care leavers typically leave their foster homes or residential placements between 16-18 years and cannot always rely on receiving as much practical, emotional or family support as their peers, once they have moved out.  The health, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic has heightened the challenges they are likely to face at a stage in their lives which can be difficult for young people under normal circumstances. 

With the CCTC study taking place over 18 months from November 2020, Professor Munro will work alongside Fiona Newlands and Amy Lynch, Research Fellows with Bedfordshire’s Institute of Applied Social Research, and Dr Claire Baker – an independent research & policy consultant based in York.

Research team

Past research shows that young people leaving care can feel isolated and abandoned during the transition from care and that they are vulnerable to poor outcomes including poverty, homelessness, mental ill-health and unemployment. 

During the early phase of the pandemic, the government said they expected local authorities to take account of coronavirus when making decisions about care leavers and to ensure that no one had to exit the care system during this period – unless they wished to do so and it was officially decided to be in their best interest. Local authorities were also asked to provide discretionary payments to care leavers to cover items such as food, utilities and rent. 

However, the pandemic imposed changes in the way support to care leavers was delivered and charities have reported that, although some services have adapted and developed different ways to support their care leavers, innovation is far from widespread and variations in practice and the level of support provided still persist.

Emily Munro, Professor of Social Work Research and Director of the Institute of Applied Social Research, said: "Our hope is that this research will contribute to understanding the impact that the pandemic has had on the health and wellbeing of care leavers and will help inform the development of services and support that are responsive to the diverse needs of young people leaving care."

The CCTC study will explore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on care leavers’ transitions from care. It will involve analysis of quantitative data from around 900 care leavers and in-depth interviews with senior and operational managers from over 20 local authorities in England. Around 50 care leavers and their key workers will also be interviewed.

This data will inform the research team’s understanding of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the timing of young people’s transitions from care, where young people go, what services and support they received, and how they fare.

Tilda Goldberg CentreFounded in 2010, the Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work & Social Care sits within the University of Bedfordshire’s Institute for Applied Social Research. It is named in honour of the pioneering social work researcher from the 1960s and 70s and was initially set up at the University’s Luton campus and funded at Tilda Goldberg’s bequest. The Centre focuses on the analysis and development of professional social work practise and the safeguarding of children and adults.

For further information about research and postgraduate opportunities with the Tilda Goldberg Centre and the Institute of Applied Social Research, visit: www.beds.ac.uk/iasr/pd

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