Coronavirus: Vulnerable children in danger of being failed as support moves online

Research from the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) highlights that replacing face-to-face interventions with digital and online support does not automatically deliver the same benefits.

Rapid adaption to digital interventions may be letting children down.
Rapid adaption to digital interventions may be letting children down.

Virtual and digital interventions have been found to be less, or no more effective, than traditional approaches when it comes to improving outcomes for children.

As Covid-19 has increased the number of challenges that vulnerable children are facing, EIF’s survey has examined five major areas of support for children and families at risk: mental health and well-being, substance misuse, behaviour and violence, risky sexual behaviour, and child maltreatment. 

Examples of remotely delivered interventions include one-to-one and group-based therapy or support provided by phone, messaging or videoconferencing, through to self-guided interventions such as online quizzes, apps and games. 

While the need to adapt services has been acted upon, the speed of adaption is jeopardising ‘core components’ of an intervention. For example, many effective traditional interventions rely on a strong relationship and regular contact between a practitioner and participant.

Maintaining participation is one area which has become significantly more challenging.

Of the 116 existing V&D interventions identified by EIF, only 22 per cent have robust evidence of having been effective. All others were found to have only preliminary evidence of working, no evidence, or evidence of having no effect or a negative impact. 

While this doesn’t mean that these programmes won’t or can’t deliver benefits for children, it provides a significant note of caution on the effectiveness of existing remotely delivered interventions. 

On the plus side V&D delivery can provide low cost and extended reach. 

Jack Martin, lead author of the report and senior research officer at the Early Intervention Foundation said: ‘Providers are making a massive effort to keep vital support coming to those who need it most. The study highlights some of the challenges that exist in trying to make this transformation happen quickly, and some of the pitfalls to be avoided. We hope the recommendations in the report provide useful and actionable insights for those who are making important decisions about new and adapted services right across the country.’ 

Read the full report here 


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