An Interdisciplinary Child Well-Being Network (ICWBN) to study the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children in Ireland and the United Kingdom

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Geography and Sustainable Development


CONTEXT: The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for the UK and Ireland. Although children are less likely to develop a severe form of COVID-19, they are uniquely vulnerable to its social and economic consequences. The measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, such as school closures and stay-at-home orders, are likely to exacerbate socio-economic inequalities among children and their families. Families with children suffered some of the worst consequences of the economic crisis and austerity ten years ago, in both the UK and Ireland. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit both countries at a time when child poverty rates were already high. Nearly one in five children under 18 in Ireland and one in four in the UK were at risk of poverty in 2018.

AIMS & OBJECTIVES: This project will establish a network of academic and non-academic experts on child well-being from across the UK and Ireland. The new Interdisciplinary Child Well-Being Network (ICWBN) will study the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for children's living standards as well as their outcomes in health, development, educational achievement and life satisfaction as they grow older. The network will pool theories, evidence and methodological approaches from across the social sciences.

The project has two key research objectives:

1) To establish the Interdisciplinary Child Well-Being Network (ICWBN)
The project will bring together academic and non-academic child well-being experts from the UK and Ireland, both virtually and face-to-face. It will not only facilitate collaboration between network members from across different social science disciplines, but will also provide a platform for communicating their research and advocacy activities to diverse non-specialist audiences through a new website (blogs, podcasts, webinars) and social media (Twitter). The team will also prepare a policy brief highlighting the importance of focusing on child well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2) To develop an interdisciplinary research agenda for promoting child well-being:
a) To understand the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated containment measures, including school closures, for children and their families from an interdisciplinary social science perspective.
b) To map potential direct and indirect pathways between the COVID-19 crisis and children's outcomes in health, education and subjective well-being across the life course.
c) To propose policy measures to cushion the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children as they grow older.
First, the project team will organise a virtual 'core group' meeting to discuss the ongoing and future research plans of the core network and to seek out collaborative interdisciplinary funding opportunities for studying the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on children. Second, a one-day workshop in Dublin will help establish new connections between network members, discuss their ongoing and planned research related to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children's outcomes, and to set out the aims and objectives of a large collaborative grant proposal to be submitted jointly in late 2021. Finally, the project team will meet in St Andrews to facilitate the writing of the joint grant proposal.

POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS AND BENEFITS: The ICWBN will be well-placed to document research gaps, elucidate areas for interdisciplinary collaboration and create an ambitious research agenda for joint grant applications. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children and their families is likely to hold a central place in European and UK policy and discourse for years to come. The results of this project will inform academics, practitioners, policy makers, and the general public about the longer-term consequences of the crisis for children's lives. The findings of this project will point towards policies to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis.


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