TRE0008

Written evidence submitted by C. Clayton, R. Clayton and M. Potter

 

‘British Families in Lockdown Study’

Brief Overview of Findings

Overall, our national study has found that there are serious concerns with the way in which information was being shared with the public. Guidance was often absent and when it was present, it was contradictory and confusing. This had a negative impact on people’s mental health. British people turned to sources of information other than the Government for advice including international guidance, unofficial advice from social media and using their own common sense.

Due to a perceived absence of a clear, reasoned, and sensible Government strategy, there was a lack of unity amongst British people in regards to their behaviours. Conspiracy theories and subversive behaviours were common and undermined scientific advice. Most people seemed to display a lack of confidence in the Government and how the pandemic was being handled. However, a minority did express the view that the Government was managing a difficult situation as best as they can.

Comparisons with other countries not only showed that the UK was experiencing higher rates of infection and death, but that other countries were implementing clearer and stricter guidance. Lessons were perceived as not being learned from countries who had previously experienced pandemics such as SARS, and who were coping better with COVID-19.

Finally, whilst the Government was deemed as not demonstrating a clear, reasoned and sensible strategy, vulnerable families and individuals were being left unsupported, leading to negative outcomes. General feeling amongst British people was that the Government was concerned more about the economy than the well-being of the vulnerable and this led to further distrust and disenfranchisement with government.

More detailed findings are listed below under the subheadings of: Government Impacts on Health and Well-Being; Information from Government; National Strategy; and Comparisons with Government Strategies Abroad.

 

Government Impacts on Health and Well-Being

Here we are sharing British people’s perceptions about how their health and well-being has been impacted as a result of Government action or inaction. We did not specifically ask about health and well-being impacts of Government action, instead we asked general open-ended questions about how well the participants thought the Government was responding to the pandemic. Their responses are summarised as follows:

 

Information from Government

From our open-ended questions about how well the Government was responding to the pandemic, a significant number of participants in the study spoke about how information was distributed to them; including information about how the virus was transmitted, how to stay safe, what the Government was doing, why decisions were made and what the public should be doing and when. Peoples views were as follows:

 

National Strategy

The dominant sentiment amongst the British families interviewed, was that the Government had no clear strategy on how to manage the pandemic. Government was slow to react, and advice to the public was often absent, confused or contradictory. This led to large numbers of people distrusting the Government and questioning their guidance. The Government were not clear about the reasons for the decisions they made and it was unclear what lessons were being learned from other nations who were more successfully managing the pandemic. Government guidance was poorly enforced and lockdown rules were not adhered to. People generally felt that the Government was choosing a ‘herd immunity’ approach and prioritised the economy over the safety of the vulnerable.

 

Comparisons with Government Strategies Abroad

Many people had connections with other countries, either because of family members living abroad, because they were temporarily stuck in other countries and were unable to return to the UK, or because they were living abroad themselves. As such, these participants were well placed to observe different approaches between nations.

 

About the Study

Researchers present this data from the ‘British Families in Lockdown Study’, which began collecting data in March 2020 during the first coronavirus lockdown. This ongoing longitudinal study, led by Leeds Trinity University, with research collaboration from the University of Leeds, has investigated the day-to-day experiences of diverse British families from various socio-economic backgrounds, geographies, religions and cultures since the start of the first coronavirus lockdown. Participants have shared their detailed, personal stories and experiences of employment, children’s schooling, health, well-being, family life, leisure time and technology use. Outside of this study, reported Covid-19 evidence has been overwhelmingly quantitative based, scientific, clinical, anecdotal or journalistic, as such, these qualitative insights help to build a more rounded picture of British experiences.

This study was quick to respond to the pandemic and was one of the few qualitative studies collecting data from the UK population during the first seven weeks of the first lockdown. Our findings demonstrate some of the complex ways in which Covid-19 impacted British people, and most importantly for this inquiry, participants’ thoughts and opinions about Government preparedness and responses have been recorded and analysed. As such, we are able to provide academic insights into public perspectives throughout the pandemic.

January 22