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Delivering our local direct services to families during COVID-19

What we’ve learnt from delivering NSPCC services to children and families during the pandemic

Publication date March 2021

In spring 2020, the NSPCC adapted its delivery of local services for children and families across the UK to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. Practitioners and teams now deliver some services virtually, and others are using a blend of virtual and face-to-face work (a hybrid service model) to support children and families.

This briefing considers the experiences of practitioners, delivery partners, parents, carers and children involved in these adapted services between spring and autumn 2020, including:

  • experiences of technology
  • how relationships were built virtually between practitioners and families
  • the quality of engagement between practitioners and families
  • children’s preferences for where and how sessions took place.

Authors: Aisling McElearney, Georgia Hyde-Dryden, Lauren Palmer, Hannah Walters, Kurt Coulter, Lucy Read and Gary Adamson
Published: 2021

Reflections and learning from our local service response to families during COVID-19
Download the report (PDF)
"I feel that the NSPCC have been very flexible and tried to adapt and tailor the support to the service users."

Local authority (delivery partner)

Key finding

Hybrid service models have good potential when they are child and family-led

A hybrid service model, that combines remote support through virtual and digital methods with face-to-face work, has been found to have good potential when child and family-led and when developed in the context of a child’s personal circumstances. The research shows value in continuing hybrid and virtual offers for some children and families across some of the NSPCC’s services.

Other findings

Remote support has benefits for practitioners and families

Providing remote support using virtual methods can help to broaden the reach of a service, and has been shown to facilitate the development of an effective relationship between the practitioner, the child and their parents or carers. While virtual relationships can take longer to build, working at a slower pace may be more suitable for children and families who find initial face-to-face engagement intense and stressful.

Remote support is less suitable for high risk complex cases

High risk and complex cases are less suitable for virtual and digital support, as remote delivery does not offer the same window on body language and behavioural cues as face-to-face communication. Remote support also presents challenges for assessing and managing risk.


Please cite as: McElearney, A., Hyde-Dryden G., Palmer, L., Walters, H., Coulter K., Read, L. and Adamson, G. (2021) Reflections and learning from our local service response to families during COVID-19. London: NSPCC.

Reflections and learning from our local service response to families during COVID-19
Download the report (PDF)
“It was weird going on [a video conference] with someone that I’ve never met before but I got to really know [the NSPCC worker] in the first session. I met [them] once [after restrictions were eased]… I don’t really know why it was, just I felt like we were closer on Teams than being 6 feet apart from each other in a room.”

Primary school-aged child