Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence summary - June 2021

Summary of Scottish and UK evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children and young people.

Scottish Evidence

1. General children, young people and parent/carer COVID-19 evidence and research

Lockdown Lowdown: A survey of young people in Scotland about their 'new normal' lives as lockdown restrictions change – Demographic Exploration of Results

Source: Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland, and Young Scot

Date: January 2021

This research funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by partners Young Scot, Scottish Youth Parliament, and YouthLink Scotland, assessed the impact of coronavirus on education, relationships, employment, mental and physical wellbeing, and access to information. This online survey follows on from the initial Lockdown Lowdown survey that was carried out in April 2020. The new survey ran between 28 September and 2 November 2020 and received 6,043 responses from young people aged 11-25 across Scotland. As this was an open survey, findings cannot be treated as representative of young people in Scotland. Most survey respondents were aged under 18 and around six in ten were female.

General findings from the survey were published in early December 2020 and were covered in the December edition of this evidence summary. This subsequent publication presents findings presented according to key demographic groups: age, gender, ethnicity, and Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). It also presents findings for young people with disabilities, young carers and care experienced young people, and analyses education findings by type of education and employment findings by full time and part time workers. Key findings:

  • Overall, the analysis shows that young people over 18, young people with a disability or long-term illness, and young carers had worse outcomes than other groups across most questions. This included lower self-assessed physical and mental wellbeing; lower satisfaction with educational arrangements; lower percentages reporting good relationships with family and friends; lower levels of optimism about both current and future employment; and higher levels of concern about catching and transmitting COVID-19.
  • Girls and young women had worse outcomes across most questions with the exception of perceptions of education. In particular, female survey respondents were about half as likely to say they felt good about their mental health as male respondents. Respondents who identified as non-binary had substantially worse outcomes across all questions, although the sample was very small making findings less reliable.
  • There were limited differences by ethnicity. Minority ethnic respondents were less likely to feel good about their physical health, less likely to be happy to be back at school, and less likely feel that their educational establishment had reopened in a safe way than white respondents.
  • In terms of SIMD, findings were mixed. Young people from the most deprived areas were less likely to report good physical health; to be happy about being back in education and to feel that education has reopened safely; and to be concerned about catching and transmitting COVID-19. However, there were no differences, or no consistent differences, by SIMD quintile on other questions including mental wellbeing, relationships and employment.
  • Care experienced young people were less likely to feel good about their physical and mental health and their relationships than other young people. However, they were slightly more likely to feel good about their employment prospects.
  • Young people in school were more positive about the current arrangements for their educational course than those in colleges, with young people at university reporting the worst perceptions. Young people in full time employment were more positive about their current and future employment prospects than those in part time employment.

COVID-19 Early Years Resilience and Impact Survey (CEYRIS) – Findings from Round 2

Source: Public Health Scotland (PHS)

Date: 1 March 2021

The COVID-19 Early Years Resilience and Impact Survey wave 2 (CEYRIS 2) was conducted between 23 November and 7 December 2020. It was an open, online parent survey on the impact of COVID-19 and associated restrictions at the time of the survey on the health and wellbeing of young children (aged 2-7) and their families. It follows on from the first round of the survey that was carried out in June and July 2020. CEYRIS 2 received 5,684 responses (around half that of the first round). The sample was self-selected and cannot therefore be seen as nationally representative. Demographic characteristics of children in CEYRIS 2 were similar to those in CEYRIS 1 and to nationally representative samples from recent national surveys. However, household income of respondents in both CEYRIS surveys was higher than average. Additionally, both surveys also had higher proportions of children with long-term conditions related to learning, concentrating, or remembering; mental health, social, emotional or behavioural issues; and other long-term conditions or illnesses compared with nationally representative data. Each round of the survey had different respondents recruited and comparisons between rounds should be treated with caution. Key findings are summarised below:

  • Parents were asked how their children's behaviours and wellbeing at the time of the survey compared with during the initial lockdown period. For a majority of children, sleep, eating behaviour, and ability to concentrate were rated as about the same, with the remainder roughly evenly split between those that rated these factors worse, or better, than during the initial lockdown. For behaviour and mood, around half of parents saw these as the same, three in ten saw these as having improved, while around a fifth reported they were worse. For physical activity, 34% of parents reported that their child's physical activity level was the same, 42% reported increased physical activity levels and 24% reported decreased levels.
  • Over a third of 2-3 year olds (39%) and just under a third of 4-7 year olds (31%) displayed signs of behavioural or emotional difficulties[1], as assessed by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).[2] For children aged 2 and 3, the SDQ domain with the greatest proportion of children displaying some level of difficulty was peer relationship problems (37%).[3] For children aged 4-7, hyperactivity/inattention was the domain with the greatest proportion of children displaying difficulty (33%).[4]
  • The questions on school and/or childcare found that over half of children had attended school and/or childcare on five out of the last seven days (predominantly 5-7 year olds) and 7% had not attended at all in the last week. Around two fifths of children had routinely attended indoor organised activities while these were permitted to run and about a fifth of children attended outdoor activities. However, half of the children had not been routinely attending organised activities. A higher proportion of 2-4 year olds were not routinely attending any organised activities, compared with 5-7 year olds.
  • In terms of play, learning and outdoors, almost half of parents rated their child's imaginative play as the same as it had been during the initial lockdown period and almost half rated it as better. A large majority of children (82%) had done home learning activities most days and almost half (47%) had played actively inside on most days. Under half of children had played outside most days and only 13% had been to a park or other local greenspace.
  • In terms of social interactions, just over half of children had not spoken to friends at all in the last week, while one quarter had spoken to friends most days. Around a third had spoken to extended family members most days, while 14% had not spoken to extended family members at all in the last week. Parents and carers were also asked to rate changes in the quality of their child's relationships with some of the people in their lives. A large proportion were rated as experiencing no real change. However, over a third were rated as having worse relationships with close family members with whom they did not live full time and with grandparents, while around a third reported improved relationships with siblings and with parents/carers.
  • Parents' and carers' wellbeing as measured by the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale (SWEMWBS) showed a lower average score of 21, which was lower than the 2011 population norms based on which the scale was developed (24).[5] Minorities of parents and carers also said that they never or rarely feel relaxed, close to others, or optimistic.
  • Parents and carers of 61% of the children in the survey reported that there had been no change to household income, while for just over a third of parents and carers (35%) household income had reduced because of the pandemic. The majority of parents and carers who reported reduced income said this had not impacted their ability to pay for certain essentials. However, for between a tenth and a fifth of parents and carers, the reduction in household income had impacted on their family's ability to pay for essentials, such as buying enough food (11%) and paying household bills (19%).
  • There was some evidence parents had not accessed the services they wanted. For most services a minority of parents said they had not accessed the services they wanted for their children: between 3% for A&E, around a tenth for GP, 17% for the health visitor service, and a third for Family Support Worker. However, almost three quarters (74%) of parents who wanted to use a dentist, had not. The most common reason given was that they thought the service was not running. A half of those who wanted support to access food had not accessed it; most commonly, because they thought they were not eligible or did not know how to access it.
  • In questions on returning to school, nursery and other childcare settings, overall, 5% of children had not returned since they had reopened. For those children who had not returned, parents said this was because they did not need childcare, they cannot afford childcare, or that they were concerned about their child becoming ill with coronavirus.
  • The vast majority of parents whose child had returned to, or started, school/childcare were confident that settings were doing what they needed to reduce risk and that settings were helping children to settle in, and agreed that their child was happy to go into the setting and seemed to enjoy their time there. Just under 4 in 10 parents (38%) agreed that they were concerned about their child becoming ill with the virus, while 36% disagreed. Just under half (47%) agreed that they were concerned that their child would pass the virus on to someone else, while 28% disagreed.
  • Overall, most parents (83%) reported that since schools/childcare settings had reopened, they were able to access sufficient childcare to allow them to resume their normal work commitments, while just over a sixth (17%) said they were still unable to access sufficient childcare. The most common reason for being unable to access sufficient childcare was 'loss of or reduction in informal childcare' (44%), followed by 'closure or restriction of afterschool and/or breakfast clubs' (29%) and 'formal childcare not available' (16%).
  • In terms of direct experience of COVID-19, 31% of parents reported that their child had self-isolated for a short period while awaiting test results, while 14% reported their child had self-isolated for a longer period. The majority of parents agreed that their child seemed unfazed by others wearing a face covering. A fifth of parents reported that their child had experienced the death of a close relative or friend since the beginning of the pandemic – 5% had experienced bereavement related to coronavirus.

TeenCovidLife Survey 2 – General Report

Source: The University of Edinburgh

Date: February 2021

The University of Edinburgh has published findings from its second TeenCovidLife Survey – an online survey of 12 to 17 year olds on how they were coping as measures after the first lockdown began to ease and schools reopened, and how they were understanding and adhering to COVID-19 guidance. This survey ran from 18 August to 10 October 2020 after schools had reopened and exam grades were released[6], and was completed by 2,232 young people across all local authorities. 761 of these participants had also participated in round one. Sixty one per cent of respondents were female and 36% were male. This was an open survey and therefore should not be treated as representative of children of this age in Scotland. Each round of the survey had different respondents recruited and comparisons between rounds should be treated with caution. Further analysis of the findings may be available in future and access to the data is available from the Generation Scotland team. Key findings are summarised below:

  • Stress – Almost half (48%) of young people have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost a fifth (19%) reporting feeling stressed about COVID-19 all or most of the time.[7]
  • Health Advice – Young people trust health advice 'a lot' from medical professions (65%) compared with guidance from the Scottish (32%) or UK (18%) Government.
  • COVID-19 Guidance – The majority of young people say they adhere to COVID-19 guidance, with the highest compliance in the use of face coverings in enclosed spaces (94%) and lowest in maintaining distance with people outside of the household (65%).
  • Vaccinations – Eight out of ten young people (82%) wanted a COVID-19 vaccine if one was offered to them.
  • Health impact of return to school – Six in ten young people (59%) were extremely or very worried about the impact returning to school would have on their family's risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Safe return to school – Young people were divided over whether or not it was safe for them to return to school following the first lockdown. Almost a third (30%) of young people neither agreed nor disagreed it was safe to return to school, while slightly over a third (36%) did not think it was safe.
  • Loneliness – A fifth (20%) of young people reported feeling lonely most or all of the time. This was a smaller proportion of young people as during lockdown (28%), but still higher than pre-lockdown levels.
  • Social media use – Half of young people (50%) report spending less time on social media now compared with during the summer holidays.

Working Paper: Covid-19 Mitigation Measures Among Children and Young People

Source: Scottish Government

Date: 22 January 2021

This working paper summarised the currently available evidence base around mitigation measures for children and young people, including the use of face coverings in schools. It also highlighted forthcoming sources. It focused on wellbeing impacts on young people, understanding of restrictions, communications aimed at young people, and compliance and enforcement. Evidence to date is mainly qualitative in nature or drawn from non-representative surveys. A number of sources referred to in the Working Paper are summarised in this and previous evidence summaries. They include: Lockdown Lowdown, TeenCovidLife, and data from previous rounds of the CEYRIS survey. At the time of writing, the working paper is being updated with findings collected since January 2021. Key points from the Working Paper are:

Wellbeing impacts

  • There were no quantitative data available to date (as of January 2021) directly from young people on wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 restrictions, but qualitative research has consistently shown that young people generally were in favour of both physical distancing and the use of face coverings, and appreciate safety measures being taken, within educational establishments.
  • Within focus groups with young people from vulnerable groups, conducted as part of earlier Lockdown Lowdown research, some disabled participants raised an issue about physical distancing making communication for deaf and partially sighted people more difficult. No negative impacts of face coverings were identified. The only concern around face coverings raised was by one young carer who felt unsafe due to lack of compliance within their school, and called for stronger enforcement.
  • In YouGov polling conducted for the Scottish Government during September, a majority of parents of children under 18 were comfortable with the use of face coverings in schools and on school transport.

Understanding of restrictions

  • There were notable levels of confusion or lack of knowledge about current restrictions and rules among young people. In the recent Lockdown Lowdown survey of young people aged 11 to 24 (see above) more than half of respondents said that they knew what the rules were in general, but were not sure on all the details. A minority also reported in open response survey questions that they found the rules confusing.
  • In terms of parental understanding, YouGov polling for the Scottish Government during October and November 2020 showed an increase in parents of children under 18 saying they were clear on what the guidance means for their children. However, there continues to be low awareness of the detail of the rules, and no evidence of consistently increasing awareness over time. No more than 4 in 10 parents at any time point were able to correctly identify the correct restrictions in any setting or age group. Levels of awareness were lowest for rules outdoors, particularly rules for children aged 12-17.


  • Qualitative research with young people points towards the need for more targeted messaging for children and young people. Research on communications carried out by Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy found that while young people agreed that messaging on social distancing was clear, they felt that messaging around the indirect impacts of COVID-19 for their age groups was unclear, particularly with regard to issues such as education. Older young people (16+) felt that government information and messaging was not relevant to them, on the whole, and that they would like to be addressed more directly. This was consistent with findings from the second Lockdown Lowdown survey and focus groups.

Compliance and enforcement

  • In terms of compliance, polling from the end of November found that 10% of parents of children under 12 and 20% of parents of children aged 12-17 said that their child had done something in the past week that was not within the restrictions / guidance. During October and November, around 4 in 10 parents said they had adapted guidance to suit their family's need. The main reason given was their child's mental health.
  • There were no quantitative data available to date directly from young people on compliance, but qualitative research suggests there was a recognition by young people themselves that some young people were not complying with rules, particularly around social distancing. However, many young people perceived that other age groups were also not adhering to the restrictions, and that their age group was being unfairly judged by the media.
  • Open text answers in the second Lockdown Lowdown survey and findings from the focus groups with vulnerable groups suggested that many young people would like to see stronger enforcement of existing rules and restrictions in general.

(Scottish and UK evidence) The impact of COVID-19 on children and young people in Scotland: 10 to 17- year-olds

Source: Public Health Scotland

Date: 24 March 2021

This report is one of a series of papers by Public Health Scotland that considered the possible positive and adverse consequences of COVID-19, particularly infection control measures, on children and young people's development and wellbeing at different ages and stages of their lives. The report focused on children aged 10 to 17 years and assessed previously published information that covers the period of March to December 2020, prior to the lockdown initiated in early January 2021. It does not contain any new research and many sources have been summarised in previous editions of this evidence summary.

The following key impacts were identified in the report:

  • Young people's relationships with their families The research reviewed here showed that families with young people may have experienced a range of 'stressors' including parents' mental wellbeing, changing family financial situations, limited access to services, and struggling to continue education with schools closed. However, research with children aged 12-14 showed that the majority enjoyed spending time with their family and felt that they got along well together during lockdown.
  • Young people's social development and relationships – Recent surveys showed that young people between the ages of 11 and 18 were concerned about the impact of lockdown on seeing friends. While feelings of loneliness among 12 to 14 year olds were highest among girls during the initial lockdown in 2020. This had reduced by September 2020.
  • Digital connectedness – While many young people increased their use of digital resources to remain connected and informed, this meant that young people relied on screens for schoolwork, socialising, and relaxation such as playing games or watching TV. Some studies (Scottish Online in Lockdown and Time for Inclusive Education) noted increases in bullying and prejudice-based activity online and that some groups faced inequalities of access to digital devices or privacy to use them.
  • Risk of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of young people – From the evidence available, indications were that some children may have experienced increases in abuse since COVID-19 and have had fewer opportunities to safely raise this with someone.
  • Mental health and wellbeing of young people – Recent evidence indicated that girls of all ages and young people in older age groups reported lower levels of mental health and wellbeing. Key themes highlighted by young people responding to the first Lockdown Lowdown and Scottish Online in Lockdown surveys included concerns about the physical and mental wellbeing of others, the impact on their own future and finances, and the negative emotional impact of school closures. Again, research highlighted the impact of existing inequalities for specific groups of young people.
  • Physical health of young people – The report included findings that show that, while young people were concerned with their physical wellbeing, the majority felt they made healthy choices in their life. Other studies indicated difficulties for some in urban areas accessing outdoor space, increased difficulties for young carers in looking after their physical health, changes to sleep patterns, and impacts on young people from low-income families.
  • Access to and use of health and other services for young people – The report drew on evidence highlighting increased in demand for mental health services and some of the challenges young people faced in accessing these such as lack of privacy, cancellations of face-to-face support, waiting lists for online services, and lack of clarity on where to obtain support. Young carers and young people in the youth justice system have also been affected by changes in services due to the introduction of restrictions.
  • Young people's education – The research summarised in the report noted concern among young people, particularly older young people, about the impact of the lockdown on their education and future careers. While children expressed happiness at returning to school after September 2020, they were also concerned about catching up with learning, exams, and school safety.

2. Impact on families

A number of findings from the Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland research in Section 7.1 cover findings on the impact on families, specifically in South Lanarkshire.

'Dropped into a cave': How families with young children experienced lockdown

Source: Save the Children

Date: May 2021

Save the Children has published a report on the impact of the pandemic on families with young children living on low incomes in Scotland. The report was based on qualitative interviews with 18 parents across Scotland and thematically analysed their stories. The report also made a number of recommendations to prioritise the needs of low-income families with young children, protect incomes now and in the longer-term, guarantee holistic support for families, provide opportunities for children's play and relationship building, and to include families in the decision making process on recovering from the pandemic. The key findings from the report were:

  • While the report highlights a number of specific challenges for families, it also concluded that they have been remarkably resilient.
  • The pandemic was a tipping point for those already in precarious financial circumstances and a crisis for a family was often exacerbated by inadequate or gaps in support.
  • Parents used different strategies to cope with a lack of money – cutting back on essentials, going without, or getting into debt.
  • Parents' wellbeing suffered due to increased anxiety around money worries, the sacrifices they made, combined with a loss of support networks.
  • Practical and emotional support was often considered to be as, if not more, important than financial support. The experiences of family support reported were mixed.
  • The importance of family and social networks was a strong theme. Parents, especially new mums, felt isolated when social distancing restrictions and lockdowns were in place. Keeping in touch online became a lifeline for maintaining these networks, but also brought with it additional costs.
  • Most parents enjoyed spending more time with their children and felt their relationships with their children had been strengthened during lockdown. Some enjoyed learning more about how their children learn at school. However, many parents were overwhelmed by the pressures of 'home schooling' alongside the other challenges they were facing.
  • The support families received to help with their children's wellbeing at home varied greatly. While some parents felt support provided by schools and nurseries was not always sufficient or tailored to family circumstances.
  • Parents expressed concern about the impact of the pandemic on their children's development. They were worried that their children missed out on regular social interaction and expressed difficulties in providing varied activities for children given their particular circumstances.

3. Mental health and mental wellbeing

A number of findings from the CEYRIS Round 2, TeenCovidLife and Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Breakdown research summarised in Section 1 above cover mental health and wellbeing.

'In isolation, instead of school' (INISS): Vulnerable children's experiences of Covid-19 and effects on mental health and education

Source: University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government, and UNICEF UK

Date: October 2020

This report summarises research conducted to explore the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, particularly those preparing for examinations and vulnerable young people. The study included 759 young people completing an open, online survey and four focus groups with 45 additional young people between the ages of 14-20 years old from 17 local authorities. The survey used three sets of validated survey questions to ask about anxiety and depression, avoidance and intrusive thoughts about COVID-19, and general wellbeing.[8]

This research was funded by the NHS Scotland Chief Scientist Office as part of the Rapid Research in COVID-19 Programme. It also features in a recent journal article and potentially future publications.

Key findings included:

  • 9% of young people met 'clinical threshold' levels for depression, 7% for anxiety, and 28% were categorised as having elevated avoidance and intrusive thoughts and behaviours in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Although only a minority of survey responders met clinical thresholds, between a third and two fifths of all young people surveyed reported that school closure had negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing.
  • 34% of survey participants reported that feelings of anxiety became much or a bit worse; 44% reported that feelings of depression became much or a bit worse since the start of the pandemic.
  • Returning to school generally had a positive impact on wellbeing, though this was coupled with anxiety about COVID-19 related risks.
  • Qualitative findings included mixed feelings around the cancellation of examinations in 2020, some stress related to learning at home, difficulty for some in maintaining motivation to learn, the increased and supportive role of social media, and some difficulty in accessing support from school during the first lockdown.
  • Focus group participants responded that, among groups of their peers, the impacts on mental health were most severe for young people with pre-existing mental health conditions, those who receive additional support with learning, those living in households where there is violence and abuse, young carers, and members of other minority groups, such as LGBTQI.
  • There were strong views on the need for greater mental health and wellbeing support in schools.

4. Physical health and wellbeing

A number of findings from the TeenCovidLife and Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Breakdown research summarised in Section 1 above cover physical health.

5. Education, learning and employment

Connect's Digital Survey Report

Source: Connect

Date: February 2021

The latest Connect parent online survey ran from 25 November and 16 December 2020 and was completed by 419 parents across 31 local authorities. Questions related to the experiences of their children and young people from ages of under 3 to 18 and above. The survey includes questions on the use of digital devices at home and school in the period after schools reopened, access to digital devices, and support for parents. Key findings included:

  • The majority of respondents (58%) had not been offered information or training about how technology is used in their child's school.
  • Parents and carers provided a number of comments highlighting a mix of positive and negative experiences with remote learning. While some highlighted the benefits of remote learning in addressing their concerns over health risks, others cited specific circumstances of children with SEND that meant that in-person learning was preferred. Some parents commented that inaccurate assumptions were made that all children would be able to participate equally from home with access to devices, internet access, and knowledge to use them.

The COVID-19 Education Recovery Group (CERG) publishes a weekly snapshot of COVID-19-related data for children and young people, and the local authority school-based workforce. The most recent CERG update (at the time of writing) was published on 27 May 2021. The update includes the percentage of non-attendance openings recorded as pupils not in school for COVID-19 related reasons and children attending a childcare setting with COVID-19 related absences.

6. Children's rights and participation

Lockdown Lowdown: A survey of young people in Scotland about their 'new normal' lives as lockdown restrictions change – Demographic Exploration of Results

Source: Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland, and Young Scot

Date: January 2021

This report presents – as described above – findings from surveys with groups of young people that were carried out between September and November 2020. When asked if they felt able to access their rights as a young person, respondents in the most deprived areas, older young people, girls, people who identified as non-binary or in another way, people with a long-term illness or disability, young carers, and care experienced young people were all less likely to agree than respondents in other relevant comparable groups.

7. Children and young people with vulnerabilities and/or disadvantage

The next section covers evidence relating to children and young people whose circumstances may place them at increased risk of some of the negative impacts of the pandemic.

7.1 Poverty

A number of findings from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Breakdown research summarised in Section 1 above cover findings from individuals who lived in the most disadvantaged SIMD areas. The most disadvantaged in SIMD Quintile 1 were underrepresented in this survey's sampling. The report from Save the Children also focuses on families with low income.

The Cost of Learning in Lockdown – Scotland Findings

Source: Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland

Date: March 2021

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has published the Scottish results of its 'Cost of a School Day' survey carried out with parents and children in January and February 2021 during the second national lockdown period. The surveys gather the views of families in Scotland in order to understand their experiences of learning during lockdown, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of households living on a low income. The open, online surveys were completed by 1,122 parents/carers and 649 children and young people in Scotland. The survey covered 30 local authorities but the findings are not based on a representative sample. A third of parent respondents were from low-income households and over 20% of children said they received free school meals.[9] Key findings most relevant to wellbeing are:

  • 35% of low-income families lacked essential resources for learning, with laptops and devices most commonly missing. Half of these families said they were not asked if they had what was needed to learn from home.
  • 75% of families receiving cash payments to replace free school meals said this had worked well or very well; satisfaction levels were far lower for other methods. Anecdotal responses in the report suggested that parents felt the flexibility was beneficial to them.
  • Low-income families said they were more concerned about money than spring 2020 and 90% reported spending more on essential bills while children were at home.
  • Children and young people most wanted help with learning and finding a routine when they return to school.

Refugee, asylum seeking and Roma families during the COVID-19 pandemic: Insights from frontline workers in Glasgow

Source: Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS)

Date: December 2020

This report continues the publications from CNS on the impact of COVID-19 on children within different communities in Scotland, particularly those impacted by poverty and from other vulnerable groups. Researchers conducted nine semi-structured interviews with frontline workers between May and June 2020 working in the third sector supporting migrant families[10] in Glasgow in service areas including: housing, health and social care, children and families, refugee support, and social enterprise. Families themselves were not interviewed directly due to the ethical concerns around creating additional pressures during the pandemic. The report included demographic information noting that about 75% of all asylum seeker, and refugee children in Scotland were living in Glasgow as of 2018/2019.

Key findings and recommendations included:

  • Families without secure citizenship status faced various additional barriers compared with other families living in high-poverty areas during the pandemic.
  • Higher levels of poverty left migrant families vulnerable to the economic impact of the pandemic. Insecure employment and a lack of access to social security resulted in significant loss of income for many families. This also resulted in some struggling to afford clothes for children, fuel, internet connections to support continued education for children, and personal safety items (masks and hand sanitiser). The 'digital divide' was noted particularly as having an impact on children's education among these groups, particularly for those families where language barriers existed.
  • Food poverty was a recurrent theme for refugee and migrant families who initially may not have been able to access the social security system due to language barriers.
  • Migrant families' experience of the pandemic was further compounded by poorer housing conditions, with a reliance on the private rental sector or home office asylum seekers accommodation.
  • Social isolation, the disruption of routine and activity, and the loss of formal and informal support networks during lockdown period strongly influenced the mental health and wellbeing of migrant families and individuals seeking asylum. Frontline workers emphasised that some migrant families would have experienced other traumas prior to arriving in Scotland, compounding the effects of the pandemic on their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Third sector organisations played a valuable role in supporting migrant families during the pandemic, including acting as an intermediary between families and statutory services.

COVID-19 Glasgow Research Briefing: Family Wellbeing in South Lanarkshire

Source: Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland

Date: December 2020.

Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS), the partnership between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and the University of Glasgow, has published its collection of resources exploring the impact of COVID-19 on families, children and young people across communities in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. The resources include an in-depth research report and three focused briefing papers on: family wellbeing, local services responses and collaboration in South Lanarkshire. Previous insight papers have been included in previous evidence summaries. The report includes the following key findings:

The socio-economic context of COVID-19

  • Many families previously in work have fallen into financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. There has been a rapid increase in the number of people now on Universal Credit in South Lanarkshire.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the sense of isolation that was already felt by many rural residents with reduced access to public services and the cost and reduced availability of public transport.
  • A lack of digital devices and not being able to afford broadband or mobile data restricted the ability of some children to learn at home during lockdown especially in rural areas.

Family wellbeing

  • In South Lanarkshire, some families felt the closure of schools was challenging due to the loss of the sense of community and support that schools provide. However, some children found benefits in the shift to home-schooling, as it removed the pressure of attending school.
  • Financial insecurity, furlough and unemployment, coupled with home-schooling, the additional costs and stress of occupying children at home and the uncertainty over schools and childcare added to the anxiety felt by parents.
  • Due to the 'stigma' around poverty in rural areas, some families were reluctant to accept support from food banks and charities.

Service responses

  • The response of third sector organisations in South Lanarkshire during this pandemic was described as 'absolutely phenomenal'. Emergency food provision was organised within hours of lockdown being announced. Third sector organisations had to adapt rapidly and provide a different type of service to ensure that families were still receiving support under lockdown.
  • Service professionals across sectors in South Lanarkshire worked hard to support with the community wellbeing helpline and the new coordinating groups set up to organise local service provision.


  • In some high poverty rural areas in South Lanarkshire, initial take up of emergency food provision was low. Local service providers worked in collaboration and re-designed food provision to overcome the stigma of poverty by providing mobile 'food larders'.
  • The pan-Lanarkshire Resilience Planning Group included third sector representation, which was a positive step towards strategic partnership working between the public and third sector.

7.2 Children, young people and families impacted by disability and serious health conditions

A number of findings from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Exploration research summarised in Section 1 above and Co-SPACE research in Section 11 cover findings from individuals who identified as having a long-term illness or disability.

The impact of COVID-19 on children with additional support needs and disabilities in Scotland

Source: Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID), University of Edinburgh

Date: 19 January 2021

This journal article draws on evidence from a qualitative study of the experiences of 16 families in Scotland with children having additional support needs and disabilities (ASND) during June and July 2020.

Key findings included:

  • Particularly in the beginning of the pandemic, there was limited attention paid to the rights of children with ASND as education and care services were suddenly forced to adapt to new restrictions.
  • Existing inequalities were exacerbated, such as unequal access to IT, varying levels of support and differences in family resources.
  • Most families mentioned the negative impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of their children, while some mentioned challenges with maintaining their children's regular exercise.
  • Families also reported some positive experiences, such as enjoying more time together and a release from school-generated stress.
  • The disruption in educational provision is likely to have a negative impact on the educational progress and wellbeing of children with ASND, which will take determined efforts to rectify in the future.

The impact of COVID-19 – A year in the life of families raising disabled and seriously ill young children Scotland Findings

Source: Family Fund

Date: March 2021

This research conducted by Family fund included a total of 1,248 families on low-incomes with disabled children and young people in Scotland. The research included an open, online survey, conducted through five waves of surveying between March 2020 and February 2021 and qualitative interviews with families. It was also part of a wider UK study, included in Section 15.2. The key findings from respondents in Scotland were:

  • 80% of families reported that overall support available to them had decreased since the beginning of the pandemic. This compared with 75% of families in the UK-wide results.
  • 78% of families reported that their overall financial situation had worsened as a result of the pandemic. This compared with 76% of families in the UK-wide results.
  • 86% of families reported that their overall health and wellbeing had worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. This was 79% for the UK overall.
  • 38% of families believe it will take more than a year before their lives return to normal. This was 42% of families in the UK-wide results.

7.3 Care experienced children and young people

A number of findings from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Exploration research summarised in Section 1 above cover findings from care experienced young people.

COVID-19 Recovery Planning: Views from our Care Experienced Membership

Source: Who Cares? Scotland

Date: February 2021

This report is the result of the Annual Participation Programme run by Who Cares? for their Care Experienced members. 95 Care Experienced members participated, 17 of whom were under the age of 20. A large proportion of respondents did not report their age. Members responded through surveys, national and local workshops, and one-to-one discussions with Who Cares? staff. Given the small sample size, especially of those under the age of 20, and the range of data collection methods used, the findings below are interpreted as qualitative research. Findings specifically from younger care experienced people are noted below where the original report separates these. Key findings from care experienced people are:

  • During the initial lockdown period, communication was found to be confusing and overwhelming. Participants spoke about family, friends and wider social network that helped them make sense of the information, but not all young people had someone supportive in their life. Digital exclusion was also highlighted as a barrier to accessing information.
  • Care experienced people also highlighted the interruption in universal services they usually relied on, such as GPs, benefits advice, and legal representation. However, participants also reflected on the positive support provided by care providers and statutory services in new ways.
  • A large majority of participants said that their mental health had become worse during the pandemic, and that they often felt worried, anxious, depressed, and lonely. The lack of support networks, both personal and professional affected young people in this group in particular. Positive impacts discussed were that people appreciated their friends more and that people felt more open to be able to talk about how they felt.
  • Experiences of physical health were mixed. Some people reported eating better and exercising more; however, where physical health had worsened, this was often linked to mental health.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated an already challenging employment market for care experienced people. They experienced redundancies and a lack of clarity around furlough for zero-hour contracts, leaving them reliant on a complex benefit system that could be difficult to navigate without support. Some care experienced people faced financial hardship including severe food and fuel poverty.
  • Lack of digital access was a significant barrier to accessing education, services and personal networks. While digital access enabled some services and aspects of care to continue, participants consistently stated that they prefer meeting and to receive support in person.
  • Most participants found remote learning very challenging, although for some single parents it worked well as it allowed them to combine education with caring responsibilities.
  • There was some evidence of parents not being aware of their entitlement to access emergency education provision for their children, or choosing not to because of perceived health risks.
  • The travel restrictions put in place delayed changes in living arrangements for young people making transitions between types of care placement.
  • In general, care experienced people that were also carers found managing their caring responsibilities extremely challenging in this situation.

The report made a number of recommendations based on what care experienced people would like to see in terms of support relating to: improvements in information available around support, tailored pandemic-related guidance for that accounts for specific circumstances of care, greater prioritisation of specific needs (especially mental health needs and education), financial support, support with finding secure employment, and reducing the digital divide.

The digital divide: The Impact on the rights of care leavers in Scotland

Source: Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection (CELCIS), The University of Strathclyde, and the University of Edinburgh

Date: January 2021

This report builds on previous research conducted in March 2020 on the experience of care leavers' use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research used a mixed methods approach including an online survey and an online focus group, conducted between September and November 2020 with 24 survey responses and 4 individuals participating in the focus group. All respondents were between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. Key findings from the report included:

  • Access to digital devices was considered a critical need to care leavers for most activities including accessing services (including social security, welfare payments, and food), socialising, and accessing employment and education.
  • Most respondents had increased their use of technology during the initial lockdown. Responses indicated a mixed picture on impact of this increased use on wellbeing. While some felt it was helpful for maintaining a sense of normality, others expressed negative impacts on their wellbeing from overuse. Those unable to access the internet at certain points reported that this affected their feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and vulnerability.
  • The majority of respondents said they had not received additional help to stay online during restrictions.

7.4 Young carers

A number of findings from the Who Cares? Research summarised in Section 7.3 above and from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Exploration summarised in Section 1 above cover the impact on young carers.

7.5 Minority ethnic children and young people

This summary recognises that experiences of different groups will vary considerably for different ethnicities and be influenced by other intersecting demographics. Specific findings are presented where they are available from the original research.

A number of findings from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Breakdown research summarised in Section 1 above cover findings from minority ethnic individuals.

7.6 Vulnerable children and young people

This section includes sources that look at evidence on Child Protection. For this evidence summary, most of the findings related to this group are drawn from sources that include responses from across the UK. Please see section 15.6.

The Scottish Government continues to collect data on vulnerable children (and adults) from local authorities and Police Scotland on a weekly basis. View the weekly Scottish Government data charts on vulnerable children and adults.

Lockdown and Beyond – A COVID Insights Report

Source: Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs

Date: December 2020

This report provided a summary of data gathered by Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs through their helpline. The helpline experienced an 80% increase in contacts during 2020, compared with 2019. Topics of concern raised in calls included concerns about having no money or food and requiring foodbank support, concerns about mental health generally, concerns about alcohol use, and concerns about drug use. While the report does not specify the extent to which children and young people were callers or the subjects of these calls, Scottish Families staff during 2020 reported increased concern around the detrimental impacts to the wellbeing of children and young people in families affected by substance use.

7.7 Domestic abuse and violence against women and girls

Justice Analytical Services Coronavirus (COVID-19) Data Report: April 2021

Source: Scottish Government

Date: 27 May 2021

This report presented data on the impact of COVID-19 on the justice system during April 2021 and included data on people experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women/girls. The evidence was drawn from several sources within the justice system during the period April 2020 to April 2021. A key finding of relevance to children and families was that reported incidence of domestic abuse was down 6% since April 2020, and 8% since April 2019.

7.8 LGBTQ+ children and young people

A number of findings from the Lockdown Lowdown Demographic Breakdown research summarised in Section 1 above cover findings from individuals who identified as non-binary or in another way, though the number of respondents was very small.

7.9 Children and young people impacted by the justice system

No new evidence to report for this summary.

8. Impact on services

A number of findings from the CEYRIS Round 2 research summarised in Section 1 above, from the YoungMinds survey summarised in Section 11, and the Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland research (South Lanarkshire only) summarised in Section 7.1 above cover findings on the impact on services, service responses, and collaboration efforts.

Research from across the UK

This section covers evidence that is not specific to Scotland. Many of the surveys, however, are UK-wide and include Scotland. The geographic area or country of focus is included in brackets before the title of each report in the sections below.



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