Mapping the impact of COVID-19 in Gloucestershire

Since the lockdown began, researchers at Barnwood Trust have been documenting the impact of the current crisis on disabled people and people with mental health challenges living in Gloucestershire.

When the lockdown was first imposed, our research initially focused on understanding how charitable and voluntary organisations across the county, working with disabled people and people with mental health challenges, were responding to the pandemic. Over 50 VCS organisations in Gloucestershire took part in this listening exercise.

Many of these organisations reported financial and logistical challenges in delivering and adapting their services, as well as highlighting concerns about isolation and the wellbeing of the individuals they support. Findings from this research have helped inform the development of the Gloucestershire Funders consortium, which aims to enable VCS organisations in the county to quickly and easily apply for financial support.

We are now shifting the focus of our research to capturing the experiences of disabled people and people with mental health challenges during the lockdown. National media coverage has drawn attention to a range of issues currently being experienced by disabled people, from concerns about the provision of medical treatment, to being unable to access food and essential information, to the provision of PPE for carers. This suggests that existing health and socio-economic inequalities may be exacerbated as a result of the crisis.

At the same time, recent figures released by the ONS have highlighted that disabled adults are as active as non-disabled adults in supporting their local communities, including checking in on neighbours who may need help. We are seeking to document how the lockdown has affected disabled people and people with mental health challenges in Gloucestershire, and what has helped individuals to be supported and connected at this time.

What do we want to know?
Our initial research highlighted that some people  may be disproportionately affected by the crisis, including adults with mental health challenges; children and young people with mental health challenges; learning disabled children, young people and adults; physically disabled children, young people and adults; people with sensory impairments; and people at risk of domestic abuse.

The next phase of our research aims to map out what life has been like for individuals in these six groups during the lockdown. We are asking:

  1. What concerns and challenges are people experiencing?
  2. What has been helping keep people strong?
  3. Are people able to access support from statutory, voluntary and community organisations?
  4. What might life be like after lockdown has been lifted, if there is a partial lifting of lockdown, or if there is a second lockdown?

We are working with organisations across Gloucestershire to gather the experiences of individuals from the six groups, including gathering case studies, and this will enable us to map out what life is like for people in different parts of the county.

We hope that the findings of this research will be of utility in the immediate, medium and longer-term, including in generating immediate action around issues impacting disabled people and people with mental health challenges. By documenting people’s experiences during the current lockdown, we aim to ensure Gloucestershire is well prepared should there be further lockdowns or restrictions, including for people who may need to continue shielding.

How you can get in touch
If you would like more information about this research or to contribute, we would love to hear from you. We are also keen to hear from people carrying out similar research both in Gloucestershire and beyond. Please get in touch with Head of Research Roz Warden via roz.warden@barnwoodtrust.org.uk