A Better Start Southend

Research: the impact of COVID-19 on families and services in Southend

Research and report by:
Dr Lauren O’Connell, Vanessa Baxter, Professor Vasilios Ioakimidis, Dr Ewen Speed and Kathryn Chard.
University of Essex, School of Health and Social Care.


Background and research overview
Key conclusions
Preliminary and full report
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Background and research overview

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated ‘lockdown’ restrictions changed daily life across the whole of the UK, in ways that will likely have long lasting consequences for individuals, families, and communities. Our partners in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Essex carried out some research to explore what those consequences might be for children and families in Southend.

The research aims to examine:

  •  The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions on families with babies and very young children in A Better Start Southend wards.
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions on local children’s services and wider community organisations.
  • How A Better Start Southend services might respond effectively so that they can continue their work to improve the health and wellbeing of very young children and their families in Southend during the pandemic and its aftermath.

There were two phases to this research. Phase one informed a preliminary report and involved surveys with parents and focus groups with practitioners. Phase two involved interviews with parents and leaders in key organisations in Southend. Both of these reports are downloadable in the “preliminary and full report download” section.


Key conclusions

Findings highlight the changes, challenges, adaptions and positive experiences among organisations and families in Southend during the pandemic.

  •  The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the mental and emotional wellbeing of parents in Southend, and parents would like help, support and information in this area.
  • There are varying levels of parental concern about children’s learning, social development, and emotional wellbeing. While worries about children’s learning and schooling needs are significant for some, others have reported improvements in this area, and in the quality of time spent with children.
  •  Many parents are experiencing a range of improvements in family and community life during this time. Services should work with families to embed these benefits and improvements over the longer term (where possible).
  • Improvements in community relations and support have been experienced during the pandemic. Services that facilitate community engagement and communication may be particularly beneficial in the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Domestic abuse has occurred and may have increased but this has been largely ‘hidden’. This is one aspect of wider concerns about there being a small, inaccessible’ population of families experiencing serious hardship.
  • Parents indicate a preference for non-interactive forms of delivery for receiving additional support that is specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as written materials.
  • Organisations and services in Southend have continued supporting families within lockdown restrictions through the use of online communications and virtual service delivery.
  • Organisations are likely to continue using online communications and virtual service delivery after the pandemic, with preferences expressed for a ‘mixed’ approach incorporating both online and ‘face-to-face’ methods.
  • Virtual and remote service provision may be proving effective. Strategies need to be implemented to support this provision over the longer term.
  • Improvements in multi-agency and cross-organisational working have been experienced during the pandemic. Organisations should work together to identify the positive aspects of partnership working that have occurred so that these can be taken forward.
  • Organisations are concerned about reduced referrals to and/or use of services during the pandemic and future challenges relating to decreased budgets and increased need for services.

Preliminary and full report 

Download the full documents and read more about the findings using the following links.

Contact us

We welcome your feedback, comments and questions about the research. Please contact or call 01702 880370.

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