26 May 2023

The report examines the findings of staff surveys conducted in the inner London Borough of Lewisham's children’s social care service during the Covid-19 pandemic (2020-2022).

It is authored by Sara Taylor of the London Borough of Lewisham with Mary Baginsky, reader in social care, and Jill Manthorpe, professor emerita of social work, of the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King's College London and the ARC’s social care research theme.

One of the most significant changes to social work practice during the pandemic was the use of technology and how this might be effectively employed in working with families. Whilst social work will always retain its status as generally a face-to face profession, remote working and the greater use of technology have introduced ways of working that had not previously been considered or viewed as acceptable in many local authorities, but now are likely to remain to some degree

Sara Taylor, Mary Baginsky and Jill Manthorpe, the report's authors

Analysing staff views to understand the pandemic response 

The report is based on analyses of two surveys that were completed by children’s social care staff, mainly social workers. The first survey was sent out during the period of the first UK national lockdown that started in March 2020 when significant changes had been made to working arrangements to enable the local authority to continue its social work services to children and families. The second took place 12 months later when such changes were more familiar but the pandemic was still affecting working lives.

The report offers reflections on the learning from the survey responses about working arrangements that were established before and during the pandemic, the adaptations that were made to social work practice, and the possible lasting impacts of these. Reflections include:

  • Staff views on the initial response from management to the Covid-19 crisis
  • Impacts of the shift to remote working on staff wellbeing and quality of life
  • Benefits and challenges of working with children and families virtually
  • Impacts of digital poverty on some families and how this adversely affected their capacity to work with professionals and social work interventions
  • Consequences of greater use of technology on future practice, not only with children, families and young people, but also with colleagues and other professionals

Our aim is to share our findings and observations with others to assist local and national bodies planning for any future crisis as well as the social work profession and local stakeholders in Lewisham

Sara Taylor, Mary Baginsky and Jill Manthorpe, the report's authors