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Families in Tower Hamlets: impacts of COVID-19

This project aims to explore the impacts of COVID-19 on families in Tower Hamlets.

Woman standing in front of rainbow painting on wall. Image: Ashkan Forouzani via Unsplash

This project is about everyday life in the midst of a pandemic. We are working with our partners Born in Bradford, a cohort study aiming to reduce health inequalities, to examine the social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 on family life with young children.

We are also collaborating with members of the International Network on Leave Policies and Research who are studying how parents are managing work, care and home schooling in more than 15 countries. We are interested in the experiences of mothers, fathers and wider kin, and families of all ethnic backgrounds, those in paid work and those not.

Study findings will help support Tower Hamlets council to shape its service offer to all families with young children, especially those newly impoverished and those designated vulnerable: pregnant women, and children.

The project will run from June 2020 to Dec 2021.

Background

Impact of COVID-19

Employment, community support and advice, physical and mental health, parenting and family relationships, and family work-care arrangements, are likely to be substantially altered by the current conditions, with consequences for children’s health and development. 

Recovery 

As we move through the pandemic, local authorities’ management of recovery from COVID-19 requires nuanced data on individuals’ and households’ material and interpersonal strategies to shape deployment of scarce resources. We also want to capture new forms of help and support that have emerged within communities during the pandemic. 

Inequalities

Inequalities are extreme in Tower Hamlets, making it an exemplar local authority as strategies that are successful in mitigating the adverse impacts of COVID-19 are likely to be transferable to other places with less extreme conditions. 

With a fast rising and young population, very high housing density, and around 40 per cent of households living in poverty, families in Tower Hamlets have much to offer in terms of lessons about inequalities in living with the pandemic.

The borough is highly ethnically diverse: about one third of the population is Bangladeshi and over half are from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. There are stark health inequalities: life expectancy, infant mortality, child dental health and obesity all show poorer outcomes compared to London as a whole (Public Health England 2019).

Aims

This project aims to:

  • understand how families, including those defined as vulnerable, deploy their interpersonal, economic and social resources to manage risks associated with living in lockdown restrictions and its aftermath
  • provide new and detailed knowledge to support service delivery in the local authority to promote economic regeneration, social cohesion and address polarised inequalities
  • seek evidence of localised adoption and potential of peer, familial and community mutual aid strategies that aid personal and structural recovery pathways as well as identifying need. 
Methodology
  • A longitudinal survey of 2,000 parents (one per household) of children aged 0-4, including 200 pregnant women. The survey will run in Summer 2020 and be repeated six months later.
  • A longitudinal qualitative panel with 20 households sampled from the survey and up to three adult members in each household to be carried out in Autumn/Winter 2020 and six months later. Interviews (n=60) will explore the impact of the pandemic on family and community in-depth. 
  • Community Assets Mapping to closely map changes to support services available to families, including the emergence of new forms of support (e.g., mutual aid).

This study will also run in the neighbouring borough of Newham, which has similar demographic characteristics. Through sharing research tools we will enable Newham to discover the specific impacts of the pandemic on children, families and pregnant women living in the borough.

Team

Principal Investigator

Co-Investigators

Research Fellows

Outputs