North West award for child lockdown study



Research findings on children’s COVID experiences which are feeding into government policy have been acclaimed with a major North West award.

The study of the impact of the pandemic on children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) received significant media and political attention, and were incorporated in the new SEND Green Paper. 

The project called Ask, Listen, Act, a collaboration between the School of Psychology, Edge Hill and the University of Liverpool, scooped the Tackling Health Inequalities Award at the North West Coast Innovation Awards.

The winners were announced at a ceremony on 22 June 2023 at The Royal College of Physicians, The Spine in Liverpool.

Dr Emma Ashworth, who attended with collaborator Dr Joanna Kirby, said: “We’re thrilled that the research is making an impact of how the country plans to support children through future epidemic scenarios, and are doubly delighted with this prestigious award.”

Emma and colleagues found that although children with an EHC plan should have been able to attend school, the majority did not, while online learning was inaccessible to many or not tailored to their needs.

In many cases, health and social care provision completely stopped, or moved online, with a negative impact on many children’s physical health. Many children with SEND struggled with deteriorating emotional well-being and mental health, for which there was little or no support.

Added Emma: “With very little respite care available, families of children with SEND were left exhausted and sometimes in despair. Our recommendations were for children with SEND to be prioritised in recovery plans moving forward after the pandemic.”

PhD Molly McCarthy (Psychology) was also finalist in the Research Student of the Year award for her work on coding practices in A&E Departments for people experiencing suicidal crisis and attended the awards with supervisor Dr Pooja Saini.

The awards were organised by the Innovation Agency; NIHR Clinical Research Network: North West Coast (CRN:NWC) and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration: North West Coast (ARC:NWC).

Innovation Agency Chief Executive Dr Phil Jennings said: “These awards are an opportunity to pay tribute to those who work to reduce health inequalities and improve patient care. Whether in healthcare or academia, I look forward to receiving nominations and meeting those who have made a real difference to life in the region and beyond.”

IMAGE: Dr Joanna Kirby, Dr Emma Ashworth and Prof Lucy Bray at the ceremony.



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