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Protecting children at a distance: investigating and strengthening child safeguarding and protection responses consequent upon COVID-19 lock-down/social distancing measures

About the project

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has considerably disrupted the lives of children, young people and their families. The response to the pandemic and the imposed social distancing and lockdown measures have presented a myriad of urgent and considerable challenges for child safeguarding and protection practitioners, as well as the agencies that work independently and jointly to ensure child protection in England.

Successful and effective child protection practice is underpinned by engaging in ‘child-focused’ work (eg working directly with children and seeing children ‘face-to-face’) and inter-agency collaboration (eg continuous information sharing on intra- and inter-agency levels to further identify various risks of maltreatment and inform system-wide and joint responses). The social distancing and lockdown measures enacted throughout the pandemic have substantially impacted the integrity of these key elements of practice and the operation of safeguarding arrangements and the protection system at all levels and in all relevant disciplines.

External project team members

There are a range of people and organisations involved with the project.

Expert partners

  • Her Honour Judge Carol Atkinson, Designated Family Judge for East London.
  • DS Steve Clancey, the Metropolitan Police Continuous Policing Improvement Centre (Safeguarding Strand).
  • Annie Hudson, former Strategic Director, Children’s Services, London Borough of Lambeth.
  • Professor Jenny Pearce, Professor of Young People and Public Policy at the University of Bedfordshire, The Association of Safeguarding Partners representative.
  • Katrina Kiss, Research Assistant.

Partner organisations

  • National Police Chief’s Council, Vulnerability, Knowledge and Practice Programme (reporting through the cross-government Child Safeguarding Reform Delivery Board).
  • The Children’s Society.
  • The Association for Safeguarding Partners (TASP).
  • The Association of Child Protection Professionals (AoCPP).

Expert reference group

  • Simon Bailey, Chief Constable for Norfolk Police, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Child Protection.
  • Dr Peter Green, Chair National Network of Designated Health Professionals, Designated Doctor for Child Safeguarding, NHS Wandsworth CCG.
  • Sarah Hannafin, Senior Policy Advisor, National Association of Head Teachers.
  • Martin Pratt, ADCS Greater London Chair, Deputy Chief Executive & Executive Director Supporting People Camden, Regional representative on ADCS Council of Reference.
  • Gwen Kennedy, Director of Nursing Leadership & Quality at NHS England & NHS Improvement.
  • Professor Jenny Pearce, Professor of Young People and Public Policy at the University of Bedfordshire and The Association of Safeguarding Partners representative.
  • Hannah Perry, Co-Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children (ALC), Joint Head of Family at TV Edwards Solicitors LLP.


The study aims to understand the consequences of the COVID-19 measures on the entire child protection continuum, with a specific focus on multi-agency child safeguarding and protection practice and response to the pandemic.

We are interested in gathering evidence relating to:

  • intra- and inter-agency changes within child protection and safeguarding practice, as a result of measures introduced to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
  • Agency and organisational practice solutions/strategies developed and implemented in response to the impact of the pandemic measures.
  • The impact of practice changes and plans on collaboration within and between child safeguarding and protection agencies/organisations, and throughout the entire child safeguarding continuum.


This study was designed to provide a unique perspective of multi-agency child protection and safeguarding practice during the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging all key disciplines and organisations involved with ensuring child protection throughout London and England. Whilst there has been emerging research concerning the impacts of the pandemic on children and young people, we believe this study offers a comprehensive and invaluable multi-agency perspective of the implications of COVID-19 on child protection and safeguarding practice and the system.

The project was originally conceived as a modified Delphi study in two stages. The first stage of the study, completed in September 2020, involved 67 semi-structured hour-long interviews with strategic leads and senior practitioners from six professional child protection/safeguarding groups throughout London (children’s social care, health, police, mental health, law and Education), as well as Safeguarding Partnerships. This stage elicited responses from participants throughout 24 London boroughs. With an aim to capture the impact of COVID-19 measures on child protection and safeguarding at a national-level and to increase key practitioner representation, the current second stage of the study includes a national survey to the same professional disciplines throughout England. The survey focuses on gathering a national perspective of emerging and evolving concerns and best practice solutions identified within child safeguarding and protection practice during the pandemic, in order to devise evidence-based recommendations for influencing policy and practice and tools to support ‘future proofing’ of the system in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary of Findings

Find a copy of the Executive Summary of Findings from both stage 1 and 2, and a full report on the project in the output section below.

Project status: Completed

Principal Investigator



Funding Body: King's Together Seed Fund

Amount: £18,413

Period: January 2020 - February 2021

Funding Body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Amount: £14,913

Period: October 2020 - July 2021

Contact us

The project team can be contacted using the email address below.