Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence and intelligence report

Overview of the latest evidence and intelligence about the impact of COVID-19 and the response on children, young people and families, in particular, those experiencing the greatest challenges.

Annex C- Practice examples from the third sector


Aberlour published a report on how its services have responded to COVID-19[29]. The challenges in delivering services in the current climate are described, alongside some positive changes. Some specific examples of how their services have adapted to respond to COVID-19 include:

  • The number of applications to Aberlour's Urgent Assistance Fund has increased by nearly 1400% since March of this year. The organisation has supported over 1100 families with grants amounting to more than £300,000.
  • As previously noted, there has been a rise in applications to the Urgent Assistance Fund for financial assistance from black and ethnic minority families due to COVID-19, in particular from asylum seeking families and those with 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF).
  • Aberlour's family support services have worked with a wide range of community partners to purchase and deliver food packages, hot meals and food vouchers to families. This support has included 12,000 additional children, young people and parents previously unknown to Aberlour's services.
  • There has been an increase in referrals to services where domestic abuse is identified as a risk factor and the dedicated domestic abuse team in Glasgow has developed ways of remotely supporting the families, in addition to risk assessed home visits for the most vulnerable families.

Action for Children

Action for Children[30] reports that they have created an Emergency Fund to provide one-off support to families faced with an unexpected expense or crisis, or additional pressures such as domestic violence, disability or poor health. To date, the fund has supported 392 families worth a total value of £82,277.

In April, Action for Children were awarded £202,000 from the Scottish Government's Wellbeing Fund and during a six week period supported over 856 families. Through a partnership bid with Barnardo's, Action for Children were recently awarded a further Wellbeing Fund payment of £400,000.

A range of key services have been adapted and expanded, including:

  • Face to face contact including: delivering food, booking taxis and moving people's belongings to new accommodation after issues with domestic abuse.
  • Emotional and physical health and wellbeing support, including: 'walk and talk' sessions to young people, medication pickups, and mental health first aid sessions via telephone chat sessions.
  • Ongoing digital contact services and follow-up, via telephone, text, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft teams, offering support to adults and creating activities for children such as online/community bingo, art projects, book and film clubs and 'music weeks',
  • Financial support including: support to arrange electricity and gas suppliers, supplying mobile phones and laptops, assisting with Universal Credit applications, delivering cash payments and other wellbeing funds.
  • Sourcing accreditation for online training courses from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • Working practices and rotas to create 'staff bubbles' to maximise help and support to children and families in our residential support settings.

Barnardo's Scotland

Barnardo's Scotland has published a series of weekly "In This Together" reports on its website which summarises the range of challenges children's services providers have been navigating and sets out how Barnardo's Scotland services have adapted to meet the additional needs resulting from the crisis[31]. The reports have highlighted that families' financial pressures emerged as the main concern, due to not having access to daily free school meals, alongside families being home all day using more food, gas and electricity. The reports continue to highlight digital exclusion as a key issue, with many families not having access to smartphones, tablets, laptops, Wi-Fi or money to top up data credit.

Barnardo's Scotland has supported families initially through emergency payments from its own resources, then – in a joint bid with Action for Children – through funding from the Scottish Government's Wellbeing Fund. Barnardo's Scotland received an initial award of £178,000 from the Wellbeing Fund, with a subsequent allocation of £270,000, allowing them to support hundreds of families across Scotland. In addition to the provision of digital resources, technology, food parcels and other practical support, Barnardo's family support workers have delivered substantial telephone contact, facilitated online groups, undertaken doorstep visits, delivered essential medicines, and gone on walks (safely and socially distanced) with young people to keep them physically and mentally healthy as well as offering respite to parents.

Children 1st

In addition, to their Parentline service (outlined in Section C), Children 1st has reported a number of ways in which they have adapted their services to provide practical and emotional support alongside families. They have recently begun training all family support workers on domestic abuse in the context of the pandemic.

Children 1st has provided the following practical and financial help to families:

  • Distributed 100 Chromebooks to families through the Scottish Government Connecting Scotland initiative.
  • Raised over £285,000 for families since March 1st through their income maximisation work. They have also been helping refer families to foodbanks.
  • Supported 64 families to access funds through their partnership with the Aberlour Urgent Assistance fund, to the value of £16,049 total.
  • Children 1st's own Activity Fund has helped 657 families (in the form of food vouchers, games, Kitbags and other items) to the value of £28,815.


Includem has been developing and adapting their delivery of support to include online and telephone models of contact. Through its Young Person's Fund, financial and material support of over £17,000 has been provided to young people and their families. This has included providing 33 young people and families with the equipment they need to become digitally included such as mobile phones, top-up cards, data allowances, laptops, tablets and chargers[aa]. Includem surveyed 150 families via phone call, to understand their current access to digital devices and services, the barriers they might be facing and any concerns they may have. A third of respondents did not feel they would be able to afford ongoing costs. A fifth reported that they do not have access to all the devices that they need. Barriers to digital access included not having devices with video call functionality and worries that using video calling would put pressure on their data allowances[32].


Licketyspit is a national specialist early years theatre company with expertise in child-centred and intergenerational Play. The Licketyspit approach to drama and drama-led play is rooted in children's rights, community engagement, and a belief in the power of inter-generational, drama-led play. Over last 6 weeks Licketyspit have regularly worked with 94 1 to 7 year olds from 57 families in areas of high poverty and have adapted their practice to incorporate interactive group play/social Zoom sessions

Parent Network Scotland

Since the outbreak, Parent Network Scotland have developed all of their courses onto an online tool. The organisation has continued to engage with the 90 families it was connecting with before lockdown and has had to employ another 7 community facilitators to help meet demand. Via technology, apps and social media, there has been engagement with over 1500 families. A Wellbeing Toolkit has also been developed for parents to use with their children to reduce anxiety and stress. Food vouchers have been distributed to around 300 families and over 30 Halal food packs have also been delivered.

Starcatchers, Scotland's National Arts and Early Years Organisation

Starcatchers describes how COVID-19 initially resulted in the cancellation of almost all planned delivery for the first quarter of 2020/21[bb]. In a submission to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee for its inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on Scotland's culture and tourism sectors. Engagement would normally be face to face in the community with children aged 0 to 5 and their parents. Activity was quickly adapted and, where possible, is now being delivered remotely via online groups and resources. These are now being complemented by physical resources such as creativity packs delivered directly to some of Scotland's most vulnerable families by working in partnership with children's sector organisations such as Children 1st.

Who Cares? Scotland

Who Cares? Scotland has established a helpline to support Care Experienced people across advocacy, participation and employment, recognising that they are particularly vulnerable during this crisis and that they may disproportionately impacted by the measures in place. The support has extended to Care Experienced people, carers and workers across all 32 local authorities in Scotland and to date has received 535 calls, with 277 of these being ongoing cases. Who Cares? Has also reported that the majority of their participation work has moved to digital formats and they recently hosted a Digital Festival for Care Experienced people.

Youthlink Scotland

YouthLink Scotland has provided training to around 750 youth workers during lockdown and this has impacted about 20,000 young people often with a focus on addressing digital poverty. The organisation is also supporting the delivery of six food insecurity projects during the summer holiday period in Moray, Dundee, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, Falkirk and Scottish Borders. The SG funded pilot is targeted at young people (S1-S6) affected by poverty, focussing on food insecurity and closing the poverty related attainment gap. Each project will target 20 young people and their families and has been designed in creative ways to meet the current challenges[33].

Third Sector Interface Survey- Findings

On behalf of the Third Sector Interface (TSI) Network, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS) ran a national survey in May to further understand the impact of the pandemic on the third sector and the people and communities it supports[cc].

Effects on Communities

Organisations highlighted the areas they were most concerned about in relation to the communities they serve:

  • A significant majority highlighted the effects of mental health on their communities (92%)
  • This was closely followed by concerns regarding loneliness (80%).
  • Also important were concerns regarding communities missing out on opportunities (60%), increased poverty (64%), safety, abuse and neglect (52%) and physical health (52%).
  • However, 80% felt that there has been a positive impact felt from within communities by people looking out for each other and people making the best of it (70%).
  • In addition, 49% could see improved collaboration between organisations and 42% noted the positive impact on new connections and better relationships.

Changing Services

The survey found that services have had to significantly adapt their models of delivery to respond to need:

  • 48% have adapted their delivery models,
  • 12% have completely changed what they do to support their community or service users.
  • Almost 78% have moved their support to online or phone based support.
  • 43% believe they are doing 'really well' with adapting to digital provision, while 43% believe they are coping.
  • 21% have been unable to provide activities needed and they have stopped meaningful delivery.
  • Close to 41% have needed to furlough some, or all, of their staff.

Needs of the Sector

Organisations stated a number of concerns and needs, particularly around finance and funding:

  • 71% believe that their financial position is likely to worsen with almost 40% believing that this will cause them challenges. Mainly this is reported to be from a decrease in income from fundraising, funding applications and trading.
  • 14% felt they had the necessary funding to get through the crisis, 15% have been able to access the funding they need from additional sources, 44% have been able to access some of what they need, while 12% did not believe the available funding suits their circumstances.
  • Organisations reported that the following would assist them in responding to the needs of the pandemic. 55% require additional funding, 34% need advice with digital provision, 31% would like advice with funding or fundraising and 21% require access to PPE.



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