Wellbeing, Mental Health and Safeguarding
We asked participants about provision for the wellbeing and mental health of vulnerable children and themselves during the outbreak. Practitioners’ responses showed that over half of the settings were able to respond to their vulnerable learners’ needs without support from volunteers. Practitioners and families reported volunteering outside work or home to support settings and community members in need of support during the outbreak according to their skills and availability. The two groups illustrated a different picture when asked about the support they were giving or receiving from others. A high proportion of practitioners reported having regular or frequent support from colleagues on wellbeing and mental health of students and staff in settings. The percentage of families collaborating with other families for support was significantly lower. Practitioners were more confident about where to go for help to support wellbeing and mental health, while more than one third of the group of families were sure about where to go less often or never. A similar picture was reflected by families’ responses about accessing support from charities relevant to their child’s needs.
Findings in more detail showed that:
- We asked practitioners whether their settings had volunteers available to help with caring for vulnerable children during the outbreak. 68.7% said that no volunteers worked in their settings, 7.8% said that they had little help from volunteers. The remaining 15.6% and 7.8% said that they had regular and frequent support from volunteers during the outbreak. In the question about whether practitioners themselves volunteered to support vulnerable children outside their working place the percentages were similar. 11.1% and 6.3% volunteered regularly or frequently, 17.5% volunteered a little and the remaining 65.1% never volunteered. When families were asked, similar answers were given. 11.8% and 7.9% volunteered regularly or frequently, 15.8% volunteered a little and the remaining 50% never volunteered. Qualitative responses from practitioners and families suggested that settings had a sufficient number of trained staff to address the needs of vulnerable children during the outbreak, and that time constraints, fear of spreading the virus or care responsibilities and home-schooling within the family prevented from volunteering outside work or home. Responses of participants that did volunteer reflected different activities based on their availability and skills, e.g., being a school governor or charity trustee, going back to a teaching role during the lockdown, and general support of elderly or vulnerable members of the community.
- When asked about meeting as a team during the outbreak to discuss workload, sharing of responsibilities and mental health of staff, 49.2% and 31.7% responded that they regularly or frequently collaborated with each other on these themes. A remaining 17.5% and 3.2% reported that they experienced this less often or never. Percentages were similar in relation with praising each other and supporting colleagues that worry or are at risk of burnout during the outbreak. A 49.2% and a 39.7% reported that they experienced this regularly or frequently at work with the remaining 7.9% and 3.2% saying that this was done less often or never. Another way of supporting each other was coaching or mentoring colleagues to ensure wellbeing and mental health. This was regular practice for 31.7% and frequent practice for 33.3% of practitioners, while 25.4% of the sample experienced it less often and 9.5% never experienced it during the outbreak. When we asked families how often they interacted with other families/carers to support wellbeing/mental health and lend a hand, the responses gave a different picture. 11.8% and 18.4% reported interacting regularly or frequently with other families, while 34.2% and 26.3% said that they did that less often or never. Qualitative responses elaborated on interacting mainly through phone calls and social media, such as facebook groups for families.
- We asked how confident practitioners and families were about where to go for support on wellbeing, mental health and safeguarding for the children or themselves. 44.4% of practitioners answered that they regularly knew were to go for help and another 44.4% that they frequently knew where to go. The remaining 9.5% and 1.6% said that they felt they knew where to get help less often or never. 23.7% and 25% of families said that they regularly or frequently knew where to go for help. On the other hand, the response accruing the highest percentage (31.6%) indicated that families felt that they knew where to go for help less often than they would wish and 10.5% said that they never knew where to go.
- We asked families how often they access support from charities specialising to their child’s needs, their network of other families/carers, LA, social media or other. 13.2% of families said that they regularly did so and another 13.2% said that they did so frequently. 28.9% reported accessing such support less often and 36.8% never. Qualitative responses gave some reasons for not accessing support from other sources beyond school, which mainly included lack of time to look for additional support, evaluating offered support as not fitting well with their children’s needs, and in some cases not being aware of what extra support is available.
Sense of community and interaction between practitioners and families:
Overall, practitioners appeared to experience a new sense of community during the COVID-19 outbreak more than families. However, similar percentages from the two groups agreed that this new sense is a natural human response to situations of crisis and about one third of the whole sample were indecisive. When asked specifically about interactions between stakeholders (school, Local Authority and family of the child), significantly more practitioners than families reported regular or frequent interactions. Exchanging information about the child’s progress, wellbeing, mental health, and health was the most popular purpose of interaction according to both groups of participants. They also discussed other focal points of their interaction during the outbreak relevant to learning, wellbeing and smoother transition back to formal schooling.
Findings in more detail showed that:
- When asked if they experienced a new sense of community due to the outbreak, 44% of the whole sample said they did but practitioners seemed to experience it more than families with a 56.5% of the former agreeing with the statement in comparison with 34.2% of families reporting the same. In contrast, 43.4% of families had not experienced any changes in the sense of community with only 15% of practitioners reporting no change. It is interesting that about ¼ of the whole sample were indecisive. In another question, 27% of practitioners while only 7.9% of families said they were happy to have discovered a new sense of community with people with same interests/difficulties and/or experts that support each other. When asked if they felt this sense of community is a natural response to the isolation imposed during the lockdown, and will not last after that, 39.7% of practitioners agreed, 13% disagreed and 39.7% were indecisive. Similarly, 44.7% of families agreed, 19.7% disagreed and 31.6% were indecisive.
- Specifically when asked about interactions between practitioners and families during the outbreak, 71% and 17.7% of practitioners reported keeping in regular or frequent contact with the family, school or Local Authority (depending on their role), while only 8.1% said that they communicated with other stakeholders less often than they would wish. In the same question, 30.7% and 26.7% of families reported keeping in regular or frequent contact with the school or Local Authority, 36% said that they communicated less often than they would wish and 2.7% n. Qualitative responses from families mainly discussed cases of initiatives (or lack of) from school or LA to contact the family and difficulties with real communication through e-mailing. Weekly phone calls to monitor wellbeing were also highlighted by families.
- Regarding the focus of their interactions, practitioners and families seemed to agree on the main focus of interaction they had with each other during the outbreak. Exchanging information about the child’s progress, wellbeing, mental health, and health was the most popular purpose of interaction according to practitioners (91.2%) and families (63%). This was reflected in the answers of practitioners when asked about the frequency of their interaction with families of ‘vulnerable’ children to advise on home-schooling (including wellbeing and safeguarding). 68.3% reported regular interaction and a further 22.2% frequent interaction, while 9.5% reported interacting less often and 1.6% never interacting with families during the outbreak.
However, there were also differences in the two groups’ views. Practitioners reported focusing interactions around offering advice on distance learning (89.5%), safeguarding and wellbeing (84.2%), while only 23.7% of families reported exchanging advice on the same topics. High responses of practitioners were also centred around exchanging resources to address children’s needs (66.7%). 65% of practitioners also reported interacting with families to help reduce the stress about addressing the children’s needs at home, while this answer accrued a lower percentage of responses by families (23.7%).
Another 65% of practitioners agreed that a focus of their interactions with families aimed at ensuring continuity for a smoother return to formal schooling in comparison with only a 17% of families that reported the same. Finally, 63% of participants agreed that the outbreak helped in developing a relationship between practitioners and families, while only 10.2% of families agreed with that statement.
Browse the rest of the ‘Results’ sub-pages from the drop down menu in the banner to find out more about participants’ views by theme:
For Practices During COVID- 19: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/vunerable-children-covid-19/practices-during-covid-19/
For Wellbeing, Mental Health and Safeguarding: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/vunerable-children-covid-19/wellbeing-and-mental-health-2/
For Meeting the Children’s Needs: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/vunerable-children-covid-19/meeting-the-childrens-needs/
For Reopening Schools: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/vunerable-children-covid-19/reopening-schools-2/