COVID-19: Exploring local responses

COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on society. This impact is particularly stark for children, families and frontline workers, particularly those living and working in areas of significant disadvantage.

As a response to the urgent needs of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, services and organisations have had to adapt rapidly; putting new arrangements into place and adapting existing ones.

The Scottish Government recognises that frontline workers and organisations in the neighbourhood context are key actors in this response, particularly in the immediate and medium term.

This recognition is demonstrated by the Scottish Government’s decision to provide additional funding at the local level for public and third sector and community groups in its COVID-19 support package through the Communities and Local Government Directorate.

Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) is working with local people and organisations in the communities in which they live.

Starting now, we will be undertaking a new piece of research in partnership with Policy Scotland, and local authorities to document responses, and the impact of COVID-19 on children and families.

Drawing out the early lessons from COVID-19

The purpose of this CNS project is to understand the impact of COVID-19 on families with children, and how services and organisations are responding to it. This will be done by looking at the experiences of a variety of services and organisations dealing with COVID-19, taking in the perspective of families.

Key to this will be exploring supports and services that are working well, as well as the challenges that families are facing due to the pandemic. The findings from this piece of work will be used by local and national services and organisations to help inform the ongoing response to COVID-19.

This research seeks to understand how local responses are working in a rapidly changing context, while providing insights that can support the next phase of COVID-19 action at both local and national levels.

Aims and Objectives

Aim: Collect empirical evidence to inform national and local policy and practice about service responses to and experiences of children and young people living in high poverty settings to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Objective 1: To construct an exploratory research study of service responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in CNS sites.

Objective 2: To construct an exploratory research study of the experiences of children and their families to the COVID-19 pandemic in CNS sites.

Objective 3: To generate policy and practice briefings to influence national and local policy and practice.

Research Questions

(A) Service response and delivery

  • How have different service providers responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Which responses aim to meet the needs of families and children living in poverty?
  • What are the key challenges that services have faced in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What are the key priorities for service providers to support the next phase of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?

(B) Families and children’s experiences

  • What are key challenges that families living in poverty are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What supports are working well for families and their children and where could improvements be made?
  • How are children, young people and their families reacting to and coping with social distancing and isolation?
  • What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young peoples’ learning, health and wellbeing?

Research Design

This is a proposed multi-method study.

Service responses to COVID-19

Qualitative interviews will be conducted with representatives from these service/sectors:

  • Leaders in the public and third sector engaged in responding to the needs of vulnerable families during the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. local authority, health, education and community)
  • Operational staff in a coordination role (managers, development workers and intermediaries)
  • Frontline workers (public and third sector)- professionals providing direct support to vulnerable families and children in education, and community sectors (e.g. teachers, youth workers, family support)

The research will examine service responses and experience at two spatial scales: local authority-wide and specific responses to needs identified in Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland sites. Interview samples will be weighted towards front-line professionals working at a neighbourhood level.


This exploratory study will use mixed method research to map the needs and service gaps for vulnerable families in high poverty settings.

Statistical data on our neighbourhoods will be used to identify vulnerability to crisis using existing secondary data. We aim to utilise ScotPHO’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index and its underlying data on social, clinical and economic disadvantage at a local authority and CNS neighbourhood level.

Qualitative research will examine the lived experience of the pandemic from the perspective of service professionals at different levels of the local governance system and the experience of families (most likely through case study data from service professionals).


Archibald, M. M., Ambagtsheer, R. C., Casey, M. G., & Lawless, M. (2019). Using ZoomVideoconferencing for Qualitative Data Collection: Perceptions and Experiences of Researchers and Participants. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. https://doi.org/10.1177/1609406919874596

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