DOI: 10.1111/cfs.13149 ISSN: 1356-7500

Embodied practice in a disembodied time: How the COVID‐19 pandemic shaped direct work with children and young people

Heather Ellis, Ariane Critchley
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health (social science)


The COVID‐19 pandemic and related restrictions imposed in the UK had a significant impact on social work practice with children and young people. As has been widely reported, practitioners were deprived of multisensory information in their assessments and of opportunities to connect with children. In this article, we consider data from Scotland, created through interviews with practitioners during May 2021, a time of tentative optimism between periods of widespread lockdown. The Scottish policy context offers particular tensions and contrasts through which to understand how practice was impacted by physical distancing measures. Just prior to the beginning of pandemic restrictions, in February 2020, the report of Scotland's Independent Care Review, The Promise, was published and emphasized the importance of love, nurture, and care for children. The Promise encouraged professionals to ‘bring their whole selves to work’ and to relate to families in ways that are natural, and not constrained by ideas of professionalism. The following month, the country was in a national lockdown with strict restrictions on the contact workers could have with families. Drawing on data from practitioners working in this context, we aim to explore how social workers reconceptualized direct work with children during this period.

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