Still here for children: experiences of NSPCC staff who supported children and families during COVID-19

Publication date 2020

Understanding the impact of the pandemic on children and families

During the coronavirus pandemic NSPCC staff and volunteers have continued to support children and families directly, through our Childline and helpline services, family support services, and community work.

We asked fifteen NSPCC staff working in a variety of frontline and strategic roles in our Together for Childhood sites in Glasgow, Plymouth and Stoke-on-Trent to make a series of reflective diary entries between April and July 2020. In the diaries, staff documented their experiences of supporting children and families during lockdown.

We analysed their diary entries to identify how NSPCC staff had adapted their ways of working to enable them to continue to support children and families, what they had learnt about the needs of children and families, and how they felt about these new ways of working.

Authors: Emma Moore and Gill Churchill

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Key finding

Lockdown had a detrimental impact on children and families, and may have placed children at higher risk of experiencing abuse at home and online

Diary entries indicated that lockdown restrictions heightened the stresses and pressures on families, had a negative impact on mental health and may have increased the risk of children experiencing abuse at home and online. Staff were also concerned about online abuse, due to children spending more unsupervised time online. 

Additional findings

Working together with partners, and moving services online, allowed NSPCC staff to continue to support children and families, but also created some new challenges

NSPCC staff adapted their ways of working and worked together with partner organisations in each Together for Childhood site to respond to the immediate needs of children and families. Working online enabled direct work to continue, but created new barriers to access for some children and families, as they didn’t have the technology or knowledge to allow them to engage with services online. Staff also felt that physical distancing restrictions made it more challenging to accurately assess risk, gather evidence, and take action to ensure a child's safety.

Working from home made it challenging for staff to manage competing demands and raised concerns about confidentiality

The lack of separation between work and home was a challenge for staff as they tried to manage the competing demands of their work and home lives. Staff also shared concerns about having sensitive conversations at home and potentially exposing other family members, especially young children, to the distressing content of their work.

Recommendations

Drawing on data from the diary entries and a broader evidence base that provides insight into the impact of COVID-19 on children and families, we set out four recommended changes to policy and practice across the UK:

  • ensure therapeutic recovery and mental health services are available for children and families
  • address the digital divide and understand the impact of digital service delivery on children and families
  • provide financial support for vulnerable families
  • strengthen local communities to help them respond to the needs of children and families at a local level.

 

What staff told us

“Sadly, for some families and their children, life at home became unbearably stressful. Relationships became fractious and the levels of domestic abuse increased, with alcohol becoming a coping mechanism.”

NSPCC staff
"The restrictions on face-to-face interactions prevents assessment of expressions, body language, tone and intent in spoken language, presentation of the home and the children, and is a big loss in terms of assessing and analysing the accuracy of information being given. [...]"

NSPCC staff
Download Still here for children: sharing the experiences of NSPCC staff who supported children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Download the report

Citation

Moore, E. and Churchill, G. (2020) Still here for children: sharing the experiences of NSPCC staff who supported children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. London: NSPCC.

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