Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NSPCC staff have continued to be there to support children and families. In this piece, Emma Moore and Sharon Mather discuss a new research report published this week, which captures the experiences of NSPCC staff who supported children and families during lockdown, and what they learnt about the needs of children and families from this experience.
On 23 March 2020, the UK went into lockdown in an attempt to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19. With little notice, and no idea of how long we might be there, everyone was asked to work from home. Cue a scramble of gathering equipment, watering the plants, and locking up the office.
Amidst the whirlwind of trying to regroup, figuring out how best we could continue to support children and families, and wrestling with various technological challenges, we met to discuss the unique situation we were in. How would it unfold? How could we keep supporting children and families, at the same time as keeping everyone safe? What would we do without access to our office space, and supportive colleagues around us? We think it’s fair to say we had no idea.
What we did know is that we wanted to document our experiences to capture a true reflection of what was happening, and everything we felt sure we would learn over the coming weeks. From a research perspective, this meant designing a project that we could start quickly, and considering how to capture the views and experiences of NSPCC staff in real time, remotely, and in a way that was not too time consuming. After some reflection and further discussion, we settled on online diaries.
All NSPCC staff working in our Together for Childhood* sites in Glasgow, Stoke and Plymouth were invited to complete three fortnightly online reflective diaries to document their experiences of supporting children and families over the preceding two weeks. The first diary entries were received on 16 April 2020 and data collection continued until 31 July 2020, with staff joining the project at different time-points.
Diaries entries illustrated the devastating impact that lockdown had on children and families, and provided valuable insights into the key issues facing children and families. They also documented the range of challenges faced by staff, and how these were overcome, to allow them to continue to be there for children.
Reflections as a Researcher – Emma
From a research perspective, this project was unique because I was also living the same experiences as my colleagues taking part in the project. When I joined colleagues to support the activities we were running in the community during lockdown I witnessed first-hand some of experiences documented in the diary entries, which gave me additional insight into the data.
Reflections as the Strategic Service Manager – Sharon
From a management perspective, it was pretty clear that the impact of COVID-19 on our daily work life was by no means ‘business as usual’, and that the balance of maintaining support for children and families was indeed now a balancing act between professional and personal. These unprecedented times needed capturing, and the reflective diaries were the way we felt would best capture staff’s experience, given the circumstances.
Where are we now?
We’ve learnt a lot since March. Across the NSPCC we’ve overcome technical challenges to enable us to better deliver services online, and been able to welcome children and families back to our Service Centres to deliver face-to-face work. As we write this blog from our respective houses, we’re aware that by the time anyone reads this, England will have been in lockdown for another month, and we can’t help but worry about the impact this will have on children and families. But what is certain, is that the NSPCC will continue to be there for children and families.
Find out more
If you are interested in reading more about the results of this project and the implications for policy and practice, see the ‘Still here for children: Sharing the experiences of NSPCC staff who supported children and families during the Covid-19 pandemic’ report published on NSPCC Learning this week.
*Together for Childhood is a partnership project between the NSPCC and local partner organisations and families, which aims to help make communities safer for children (for more information about Together for Childhood, please see Churchill et al., 2019).