Publication - Research and analysis

Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence summary - December 2020

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

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Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): children, young people and families - evidence summary - December 2020
7. Children and young people with vulnerabilities and/or disadvantage

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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

Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland – COVID-19
Source: Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS)
Date: November 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 Glasgow communities. The resources include an in-depth research report and 3 complementary focused briefing papers on: family wellbeing, local services responses and collaboration. We have previously reported on the insight papers as they have become available. Building on this, CNS will soon publish reports sharing the perspectives of frontline workers who supported vulnerable refugee, asylum seeker and migrant families during the COVID-19 lockdown, and also families living in rural communities.

COVID-19 Glasgow Research Briefing: Family Wellbeing in Glasgow
Source: Children's Neighbourhoods Scotland
Date: September 2020.

This briefing focusses on learning in relation to family wellbeing during and after lockdown. The aim of the overall research was to examine service responses to the COVID-19 virus pandemic and the experiences of families, children and young people living in high poverty settings.

Key points and recommendations included:

  • There has been a rapid increase in the number of people receiving welfare benefits across Glasgow and there are concerns that many of these new families in poverty are not known to public services. They will need support in the short-term to access and navigate public services and outreach to connect to the support available.
  • The interlinked nature of different stressors on families has been highlighted by this crisis. Financial insecurity, furlough and unemployment, coupled with home schooling, the pressures of childcare, and the uncertainty over schools reopening and availability of childcare has added to the anxiety felt by parents.
  • Without action to provide direct support to those experiencing poverty and disadvantage, social, economic and health inequalities are likely to be exacerbated. Agile and collaborative service deployment will be needed to support this. A blended approach, that continues to include digital platforms, will be required over the longer term.
  • The length of social isolation may have long-term effects on mental health and wellbeing. Service professionals are concerned about the need to support families to reconnect with their communities, services and other key workers.
  • Providing support for wellbeing-focused activities delivered by trusted local organisations could support mental wellbeing and reduce pressure on statutory services.

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

Lockdown Lowdown: The Voice of Seldom Heard Groups During COVID-19 Pandemic Report
Source: SYP/YouthLink/ Young Scot
Date: 8 December 2020

This report presents – as described in section 1 – findings from focus groups with targeted groups of young people that were carried out in October and November 2020. Additional findings specific to children with disabilities are set out below:

  • Participants in this focus group said they had noticed a difference in GP services and that any specialist services they have appointments with had been cancelled or moved online. Many participants were positive about having the option of online appointments and would like to see this maintained.
  • All participants agreed with the statement that "current rules and restrictions are the right balance between protecting vulnerable/previously shielding individuals, and allowing some freedom". When asked if there were any situations where they felt unsafe, many participants talked about situations where they were around lots of people.

Covid-19 and Families of Children with Complex Medical Needs (Shielding)
Source: Kindred
Date: October, 2020

This report is based on a small-scale mixed methods research study of families' experiences of shielding. 42 parents of children who meet the CEN criteria (Children with Exceptional Healthcare Needs) responded to the survey, of whom sixteen participated in a telephone interview. The survey and interviews were conducted during August 2020 when most respondents were shielding. The CEN criteria cover children with severe impairment who are ventilated or tube-fed. The key findings are set out below:

  • Impact of the pandemic - The pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the lives of those surveyed, with many parents struggling to cope physically and mentally at the time of the survey (August). The impact on siblings was also highlighted, with some parents speaking of the trauma which brothers and sisters had experienced, as well as the active role many siblings have played as 'young carers'. The lived experience of shielding for some families has been very challenging with many having to weigh up the risks to their children and other family members:
    "My mother died of Covid. It was so awful having to decide whether to visit her or not and I couldn't. I am still struggling with this."
    "We have to balance physical health with Emily's mental health. We keep Sam at home and let Emily go to school and shield them from each other."
  • Communication and information on shielding - Whilst information from the Scottish Government was felt by most to be 'good' or 'adequate', some felt it was confusing owing to its complexity and volume. Shielding letters caused unintended stress for some, with some respondents anxious about not getting a letter, while others did not want the constraints of receiving a letter. Parents found it very helpful to discuss their circumstances and decision-making with health, education and social care professionals, and it is suggested that future shielding decisions may be best made by parents and professionals on a case by case basis.
  • Loss of support - The survey revealed that over a third of parents surveyed received no respite care before the pandemic. This increased to sixty per cent after the start of the pandemic. This research highlights the importance of schools in supporting parents. A key issue highlighted was parental sleep deprivation and the impact this could have on the quality of care. Other issues were maintaining physio and home schooling. Parents also commented on the confusion around whether their children would get a place in a school 'Hub' in the early months of the pandemic and the lack of clear guidance on who might be eligible for these places.
  • Sources of resilience - Family support, having a garden and community support were identified as helping families cope.
  • The future - Parents are reported to be anxious about the future, children returning to school and the potential for a second lockdown. The more detailed responses from the interviews show that parents are ready to think things through and weigh up the risks.

Key recommendations in relation to the pandemic include:

  • The impact of the pandemic on families of children with complex needs and serious medical conditions needs to be publicly acknowledged. This could be achieved with a statement from Scottish Government and a letter to families.
  • Scottish Government should consider whether the decision to shield should be given to parents and key professionals, rather than issue further shielding letters in the event of a second lockdown.
  • The needs of families for respite should be taken into consideration with regard to special schools. Scottish Government should consider whether to keep special schools open in the event of a second lockdown and to provide additional resource to enable this to happen.
  • Siblings should be prioritised for support from school Hubs in the event of a second lockdown. Charities should be supported to provide activities and support for young carers.
  • On the basis of this evidence, the charity is also calling for parents of disabled children to be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine.

7.3 Care experienced children and young people

Lockdown Lowdown: The Voice of Seldom Heard Groups During COVID-19 Pandemic Report
Source: Scottish Youth Parliament/YouthLink/ Young Scot
Date: 8 December 2020

This report presents – as described in section 1 – findings from focus groups with targeted groups of young people that were carried out October and November 2020:

  • Many care experienced young people found the move to online delivery of support services difficult and were hoping to have face to face contact again soon. Some reported a break in services leaving them without support and one participant's move to adult services had been put on hold.

7.4 Young carers

Lockdown Lowdown: The Voice of Seldom Heard Groups During COVID19 Pandemic Report
Source: Scottish Youth Parliament/YouthLink/ Young Scot
Date: 8 December 2020

This report presents – as described in section 1 – findings from focus groups with targeted groups of young people that were carried out in October and November 2020.

  • Young carers responded to say that things were good initially, however contact in some cases has stopped more recently. The focus group members said COVID-19 has changed their roles and that it has been difficult to access other support for the person they care for.
  • All participants said how hard it was to take a break at the moment, and it was easier when they were at home during lockdown. Now that schools have returned it is harder to take a break. Another participant said that the restrictions have made it harder to see friends and get out of the house.

7.5 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children and young people

Lockdown Lowdown: The Voice of Seldom Heard Groups During COVID-19 Pandemic Report
Source: Scottish Youth Parliament/YouthLink/ Young Scot
Date: 8 December 2020

This report presents – as described in section 1 – findings from focus groups with targeted groups of young people that were carried out in October and November 2020:

  • While most participants did not report feeling discriminated against personally, some had witnessed discrimination based on the perceived association between COVID-19 and different communities. There was a strong feeling that the way restrictions were brought back during EID (Eid-ul-Adha) celebrations showed that minority cultures have not been recognised during the COVID pandemic.
  • Many participants recognised the increased COVID-19 risk to black people, and explained this in terms of over-representation of BME people in service industry jobs which are higher risk and the lack of confidence of some ethnic minorities in navigating the health system, which was seen as treating black people differently by some young people. Young people highlighted the need for tailored communications aimed at BME communities and resources in community languages, and more explicit statements from Scottish Government countering misinformation and recognising the different situation of ethnic minority groups.

7.6 Vulnerable children and young people

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.

7.7 Domestic abuse and violence against women and girls

Coronavirus (COVID-19): domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls during Phase 3 of Scotland's route map (11 August – 11 October)
Source: Scottish Government
Date: 5 Nov 2020

This report presents qualitative evidence on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women/girls. The evidence is drawn from weekly telephone interviews with service managers and practitioners from Scottish statutory and third sector organisations and documentary evidence provided by organisations during the period 11 Aug to 11 Oct. Key findings of relevance to children and families:

  • In the period directly after children returned to school, specialist domestic abuse recovery services for children experienced significant challenges in providing support to children due to the Coronavirus restrictions, including challenges negotiating access to school buildings or arranging face-to-face meetings with children, particularly secondary schools. Although some services have responded by providing virtual therapeutic support during school hours, others have been unable to due to children not having access to devices and/or private spaces within school, or where devices were available the security settings did not allow calls from external agencies. Others have restricted support work to after school e.g. in outdoor spaces (although it was recognised that this was not a long-term solution).
  • A number of specialist children's organisations communicated significant concerns for the 'generation' of children who had experienced domestic abuse but were currently missing out on recovery work. Explanations for this included staff feeling that virtual recovery work was not effective with children and concerns about long waiting lists to access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
  • Organisations reported that clients had varying experiences relating to children's' return to school. For some, the reopening of schools caused increased stress and anxiety because victims were not aware of their child's whereabouts at all times (as they had been during lockdown) whilst for others schools' access restrictions provided reassurance to victims because the abusive parent could not gain illegitimate access to the child.
  • Consistent with lockdown and previous Phases, many organisations continued to receive reports from victims regarding perpetrators extending their abuse during or via child contact.

7.8 LGBTQ and non-binary children and young people

The TIE report on mental wellbeing, bullying and prejudice described in section 3 above provides some insight into the experiences and impact of the pandemic on LGBTQ+ young people, in particular their experience of online bullying and prejudice. LGBT+ young people survey respondents (approximately 350 young people) reported a different experience from heterosexual young people:

  • LGBT+ youth reported experiencing online bullying during the national lockdown at more than double the rate of their heterosexual peers (36% compared to 14%). The most common form of online bullying for LGBT+ youth was from strangers.
  • 76% of LGBT+ respondents reported that the online bullying they have seen and/or experienced during the lockdown period was happening more than usual (compared to 49% of heterosexual respondents)
  • 72% of LGBT+ young people that responded have seen more prejudice online during lockdown (compared to 48% of heterosexual respondents), and they reported seeing homophobia at more than double the rate of heterosexual young people.

Other findings of note were:

  • LGBT+ respondents reported higher rates of negative mental wellbeing as a result of not being in school/further education compared to heterosexual young people (53% compared to 34% respectively).
  • LGBT+ respondents reported lower emotional wellbeing before and during lockdown compared to heterosexual respondents. In this survey, 26% of LGBT+ respondents rated their emotional wellbeing as negative before lockdown (compared to 14% of heterosexual respondents) and this rose to 69% during lockdown (compared to 40% of heterosexual respondents).
  • LGBT+ respondents were more than twice as likely to have used or tried to access online support services during lockdown when compared to heterosexual respondents (32% compared to 14%).

7.9 Children and young people impacted by the Justice system

Lockdown Lowdown: The Voice of Seldom Heard Groups During COVID-19 Pandemic Report
Source: Scottish Youth Parliament/YouthLink/ Young Scot
Date: 8 December 2020

This report presents – as described in section 1 – findings from focus groups with targeted groups of young people that were carried out in October and November 2020:

  • Participants with experience of the criminal justice system said that they found it very difficult to access services and that the main changes have been that services have moved online, which in some cases has caused a barrier to access. Young people found it difficult to gain access to government schemes that would help with access to technology.
  • In terms of positive changes, some welcomed the use of online technologies and hoped that this type of engagement would not drop off.
  • Regarding support for education, young people with experience of criminal justice recognised that there was more support available to pupils and students in general, but that sometimes this was at the expense of more specialist services, and found very long waiting lists.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot