Purpose: The article uses two case studies to explore the impact of repeated lockdowns upon the delivery of child protection and youth offending services in the UK.
Design/methodology/approach: The article draws upon two in-depth interviews – drawn from aglobal mixed-methods project on the Covid-19 pandemic – with a Child Protection Officer in the North West and a Youth Offending Worker from the West Midlands.
Findings: The two case studies demonstrate that already-austerity hit Children’s and Young People’s services moved almost all their service delivery online, preventing frontline child practitioners and youth offending workers from properly assessing, monitoring, and supporting vulnerable children and young people. In both case studies, the participants claim that repeated lockdowns have done irreversible damage to their client relationships; jeopardised potential progress out of vulnerable situations; and heightened risks for many of their client group. Notwithstanding, these two workers faced pressure to adhere to both the Covid-19 regulations and health and safety protocols. While our participants felt this affected the quality of their engagement with young people, they aired frustrations at other colleagues who, they suggested, appeared ‘content’ to have minimal contact with their client group. Nevertheless, the two workers demonstrated admirable resilience as they strove to deliver essential support to their clients. In a climate of local authority debt, school closures and further challenges to information sharing because of the pandemic, these two workers doubt support systems will return to pre-Covid standards and expect online working to continue, to the detriment of vulnerable children and young people. Essentially, these two examples indicate how Covid-19 measures close the door on protecting vulnerable children and young people.
Originality: The article builds upon the emerging empirical evidence on how lockdowns have impacted children and young people’s services. Practical implications: The limited yet detailed findings potentially highlight important deficits in the social care sector in general.
Social implications: Though ungeneralizable, we suggest our participants’ experiences might be replicated in some other child protection and youth offending services across the UK.
Keywords: Covid-19, Vulnerable Children and Young People, Service Delivery, Online, Restrictions and regulations