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Research to examine impact of online communication with children in care during pandemic

An investigation into how the move to online communication in supporting children in care has affected them has been launched in a research project led by South Tyneside Council in collaboration with Gateshead-based organisation Blue Cabin.

The project, funded by the Department for Education, will examine how family time has been delivered during lockdown, and how local authorities can ensure that the voices of children in care councils are still being heard.

Jenny Young, Director of Blue Cabin explained: “We know that, in March 2020, most children and young people had their family time – children’s supervised contact time with their birth families - moved to online platforms like Zoom or Whatsapp. Research has been carried out into how effective this has been from the point of view of social workers, foster carers and birth families, however, none of the research has centred the voices of young people themselves.”

“We are working with a team of professional artists and researchers to help children and young people tell their stories of how lockdown and the move to online communication has affected them,” she added.

The research will take place until summer 2021 and will include input from 12 local authorities.

The first strand, Compass, will explore the role of children in care councils, which represent children in care and care leavers, while the second strand, Time Together, will focus on family time.

Shona Gallagher, Director of Children’s Services at South Tyneside Council, said: “Hearing about our children and young people’s experience directly from them is very important to us. We have a long standing commitment to collaboration with our children and young people to shape and influence our practice and services. We are pleased to be working with our partners Blue Cabin to find out more about how the pandemic has affected them, what we do well, and what we can do better to support them and their families if a similar situation arises again.”

“As a Partner in Practice we have a role to play in raising standards for children and young people both in the Borough and elsewhere across the UK. The findings from this research will allow us to understand in even more detail how the pandemic has impacted the lives of care-experienced children and young people and develop strategies to improve their experiences going forward,” she added.

The findings will be shared in the form of creative outputs by children and young people, a knowledge-sharing event and academic reports.

Jenny Young added: “We hope that, through this research, we can share what care-experienced children and young people have to say about their own experiences of lockdown, and how it’s impacted their lives and relationships. And through sharing what we learn with the wider sector, we want to give local authorities, foster carers and other adults in these young people’s lives the knowledge to support care-experienced children and young people throughout the pandemic and beyond.”

Blue Cabin is a North East-based organisation which transforms outcomes for care-experienced children and young people through creative activities which are facilitated by professional artists.

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