Child Protection and social distancing: Improving the capacity of social workers to keep children safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Social Work and Social Care


This research will explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child protection practice and service users and improve the capacity of social workers and other professionals to keep children safe in a period of institutionalised social distancing. Building on our existing research on the use of digital technology in everyday life (Pink et al, 2015; Pink et al, 2017) and effective child protection, especially the centrality of social workers getting close to children in their homes (Ferguson, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2020), we will identify areas of concern and advise on effective responses. Using digital ethnographic methods at four anonymised sites, the study will generate and rapidly disseminate in-depth knowledge of new challenges and social work practices developed in response to COVID-19, such as the novel use of digital technologies, and their impact on service users, social workers and social work organisations. Qualitative - interview, visual and digital - methods will be used to gather data from social work staff and service users about in-person and 'virtual home visits'. These insights will be used to rapidly inform child protection practice nationally.

Engagement with participants and our collaborators the British Association of Social Workers and Research in Practice will shape recommendations for practice and coproduced guidance, and ensure national dissemination and impact. This will enhance the capacity of social workers nationally to keep children safe at a time of new and potentially increased risk, including of dometic abuse, and will also have future research use, such as informing the embedding of digital technologies into social work practice.


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