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EIF report

Covid-19 and early intervention: Understanding the impact, preparing for recovery

Published

16 Jun 2020

This report highlights the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown on local services for children and families, based on the experiences of service leaders and head teachers, and explores their responses to both the immediate challenges and the major challenges on the horizon, as the country moves towards recovery.

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As the report says: 'The impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable children and families is likely to be profound. It was clear from our research that school closures, social distancing and lockdown measures have seriously affected the ability of services to support children and families at the very time when these children and families are facing even greater challenges.'

In the foreword, EIF chief executive Dr Jo Casebourne says: 'Our research paints an ominous picture of a wave gathering pace beneath the surface. As lockdown conditions are eased, services face a double hit, not only from more families needing more support to deal with a wider range of problems, but also from the knock-on consequences of fewer people having received the support that would usually have been available at key moments in their lives.'

This report focuses on early help: the range of services that would ordinarily be supporting vulnerable children and families below the threshold for statutory local authority support, including targeted support provided by universal services. It is based on 32 semi-structured qualitative interviews with heads of early help services, lead practitioners, and head teachers, conducted by EIF together with the charity Action for Children between March and May 2020.

Areas of focus include:

  • risk assessment and referral in a virtual environment
  • virtual delivery of services
  • maintaining essential face-to-face delivery
  • closure of school and early years provision
  • longer-term issues, including the likely spike in demand for acute services as the lockdown is eased, and the funding that will be required to ensure both specialist services and early help are available for the families that need extra support.

As the report concludes: 'It is clear to us that local authorities and their partners will need to be funded at a sufficient level to allow them to meet their child protection duties and manage demand for children’s social care, while also allowing meaningful investment in the kind of high-quality early help that is vital in getting families back onto their feet and preventing problems from getting worse.'

About the authors

Hannah Wilson

Hannah is senior adviser for impact and improving evaluation at EIF.

Stephanie Waddell

Steph is assistant director for impact and knowledge mobilisation at EIF.