Coronavirus (COVID-19) Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group minutes: November 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Linda Bauld, Interim Chief Social Policy Adviser (Scottish Government), and Professor of Public Health (University of Edinburgh) (Chair)
  • Audrey MacDougall, Chief Social Researcher, Scottish Government
  • Mary McAllan, Director for COVID Recovery, Scottish Government
  • Jim McCormick, Chief Executive, Robertson Trust
  • Nick Watson, Professor of Disability Studies, University of Glasgow
  • Patricia Findlay, Professor of Work Employment and Organisation, University of Strathclyde
  • Steven Marwick, Director, Evaluation Support Scotland
  • Kay Tisdall, Professor of Childhood Policy, University of Edinburgh
  • Sarah Skerratt, Director of Programmes, RSE and Professor of Rural Society and Policy, University of Edinburgh 
  • Deborah Shipton, Public Health Scotland (deputising for Claire Sweeney, Director of Place and Wellbeing, Public Health Scotland)
  • Simon Wakefield, Public Spending Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Duncan Whitehead, Public Spending Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Tom Lamplugh, Head of Social Policy Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat for the Covid-19 Learning and Evaluation Group)
  • Graeme Wilson, Social Policy Unit, Scottish Government
  • Fran Warren, Social Policy Unit, Scottish Government
  • Professor Michael Roy, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Dr Claire Bynner, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Kirstin Anderson, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Dr Katrina Morrison, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Amy Calder, Senior Policy and Research Officer, YouthLink Scotland
  • Kevin Kane, Research Policy Manager

Apologies were received from

  • Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK
  • Claire Sweeney, Public Health Scotland
  • Emily Lynch, SG Improvement Service
  • Nicola Dickie, Director of People Policy and Health and Social Care COSLA
  • Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist, Scottish Government
  • Andrew Kerr, Chair of SOLACE
  • Shirley Rogers, Director of Performance, Delivery and Resilience, Scottish Government
  • Vittal Katikireddi, Professor of Public Health, University of Glasgow

Items and actions

Items and actions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the fifth meeting of the COVID-19 Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group. The Chair ran through the Agenda and Actions from the last meeting. 

Action 1) The Chair requested volunteers for informal peer review of the UNCOVER report.

Update: Draft reports have now been submitted from the majority of grant holders. These are at different stages of finalisation. If members of the group have a particular interest in any of the draft reports they were asked to let the Secretariat know.

Action 2) Tom Lamplugh to follow up with the group in relation to COVID-19 evaluations which draw out learning in relation to disability.

Update: Stephen Marwick identified some papers and offered some time from a member of his team in advance of Christmas to draw out some of the key learning. The Chair thanked Steven Marwick. The paper will be finalised early in the new year. 

Facilitated discussion on the key findings from three of the COVID-19 Learning and Evaluation Oversight Group grant funded projects 

The Chair welcomed the grant holders presenting at the meeting. The main focus of the meeting is an in-depth discussion of the first three expert reviews commissioned by the group. The meeting’s format is structured around an exchange between the researchers and collaborators, also with input from the group. The Chair explained that each presenter will speak for five minutes on a particular topic, then the other two grant holders will respond to what they’ve heard before opening up for group discussion. The other grant holders added reflections or learning from their expert reviews, and there followed a discussion with the group members. 

The Chair welcomed Amy Calder and Kevin Kane from YouthLink Scotland to discuss ‘Youth work’s role in responding to and recovery from COVID-19’. Their presentation discussed how youth work adapted in response to COVID-19 in order to deliver innovative and creative services. 

The Chair then welcomed Katrina Morrison and Kirstin Anderson from Edinburgh Napier University, who discussed ‘A review of interventions, innovation and the impact of COVID-19 in the Scottish prison system within a comparative analytical framework’ and reflected on ‘what the conditions that enabled these changes to occur’. 

Lastly, the Chair welcomed Michael Roy and Clare Bynner to discuss ‘Innovation and creativity in the third sector in response to COVID-19’, who then reflected on ‘what do we want to retain and not lose going forward?’

Key themes to emerge from across the presentations were:

  • whilst there was an initial enthusiasm for the change to digital delivery, overtime services saw evidence of increased digital fatigue, challenges were also raised in relation to using digital approaches to engage with some disabled people
  • the fundamental importance of trust was a theme that spanned the presentations in terms of organisations being able to convey public health information and work with people effectively. Key to this were perceptions of fairness and clear commination
  • across the three studies there was evidence of third sector organisations being able to adopt and respond quickly (based on their deep knowledge and understanding of the communities in which they operated) and come together to work innovatively across boundaries. There was also increased evidence of people volunteering and wanting to help
  • COVID-19 was felt to have altered the relationship between the third sector and Government, with organisations given greater autonomy and freedom to operate. However, there was a sense that the relationship was reverting back to form with a stronger emphasis on value for money and accountability now evident (particularly in the context of constrained public finances)

Update on COVID recovery work

Mary McAllan updated on the COVID recovery work. Mary discussed the developing new deal with local government and the role of the third sector within this and welcomed engagement from the group on this discussion.

Action: The Chair to follow up with the group on this.

Plans for finalisation, publication and dissemination of reports

Tom Lamplugh updated briefly about the progress of the expert reviews, reporting that all will be published in the new year. 

The Chair offered that if any of the group would like to see the reports and comment prior to finalisation, then to let us know. The Chair also welcomed suggestions for dissemination of the expert reviews. 

Date and agenda for next meeting

The next meeting will be late January or early February and a calendar request will be circulated shortly. The next meeting will be used to discuss findings from the remaining four grants. The Chair also requested feedback on the approach of this meeting.  

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