COVID-19 is impacting on all aspects of family life and personal relationships, as well as on our formal and informal systems of social care. How are we ‘doing’ family life and practicing intimacies during lockdown? What are the consequence on our intergenerational relations – with the youngest and oldest – and how are we protecting those most vulnerable? And what effect has physical distancing had on our connections to strangers, to community life, to civil society and the environment around us?
At CRFR we are inviting our network of researchers, policy makers and practitioners to share their experiences and reflections. How has the pandemic affected the community in which you live and work? What are the challenges you have faced so far, and what are your expectations – good and bad – for the future?
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic, with households and communities facing significant restrictions on their everyday life. The most immediate impact of the lockdown has been on our families and relationships. For those now working at home this has meant having to spend more time – like it or not – with members of our own households, physically distanced from wider family, friends and everyday social contacts. Children are at home from school, forcing some parents into the monumental task of juggling paid work from home with child care and home-schooling. Couples are reflecting on the consequences of this unexpected togetherness on their relationship, while those living alone are having to cope with only remote interactions. Our everyday connections to strangers have also been altered – in the shops that remain open and in our public spaces we are navigating around each other; stepping off pavements and crossing roads to maintain distance. We have yet to find a collective means of responding to the transgressions that occur – like everything else, we are all finding our way round this ‘new normal’. Necessity being the mother of invention, this distance has provoked new ways of retaining our social connections with each other. Social spaces, whether the pub, club, public library, gym or theatre have transitioned into on-line spaces, while family gatherings and chats to elderly relatives are being practiced via video conferencing.
The tag-line, “we are all in this together” works well when we think about the speed with which we have re-established our social lives on-line. However, the narrative of the coronavirus as a “great leveller” has already begun to unravel. While the effects of COVID-19 are universal, these effects are not experienced equally or evenly, and for many are serving to reinforce current hierarchies and exclusions. As with the austerity measures that preceded the pandemic, those with greater economic and social capital are better placed to navigate the worst effects of the lockdown. More affluent households typically have larger houses and gardens, better access to the internet and technology, and greater social and digital capital through which to access practical and emotional support (on-line deliveries, home-based exercise, home school resources). So, while some households are enjoying Waitrose home deliveries, the functioning of our society continues to be reliant on the lowest-paid workers who are not only unable to quarantine themselves, but are also less likely to have secure employment or stable housing.
Such inequity is, of course, also intersectional. In the UK, it has been reported that low-paid women are at a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19 as they are more likely to be in frontline jobs such as social care, nursing and pharmacy. And there are already indications that there has been a rise in the incidence of domestic abuse directly attributable to Stay at Home. Meanwhile, the mortality trends emerging in the UK and globally reveals a racially disproportionate rate of death, with the pandemic bringing poverty and ethnicity together in a ‘perfect storm’.
On the other side of the coin, the pandemic has nourished localism, cooperation, mutual support. In Scotland over 60,000 people registered for a volunteering campaign to help tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Social media is bursting with accounts of locally based initiatives which are helping the most vulnerable, and of the everyday kindnesses of neighbours, frontline workers and strangers. These experiences, alongside widely reported positive environmental impacts, narrate the virus as a means through which individuals can deepen social connections to families, friends, neighbours and community.
As we all navigate the early days of the pandemic, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships welcomes blog submissions issues from academics and practitioners working within the field of families and relationships. Submissions can include, but are not limited to, reflections on the topics discussed above, as well as reflections on the long-term effects of the coronavirus on service delivery, funding and practice. We are also keen to learn more about how COVID-19 and the prospect of long-term physical distancing is re-shaping the design and delivery of research fieldwork and writing projects. Covid 19 caused the cancellation of CRFR’s international conference Intersectionality, Families Relationships. A number of the participants have promised to write blogs for us and these will appear in the coming weeks.
We welcome reflections on personal experience as well as our more usual style of pieces informed by research or professional practice. You may also submit diaries, photos or other visuals. Your contributions should be between 600-1,500 words and should be submitted in Word format to Helen Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org). For referencing, the use of hyperlinks (instead of footnotes) is preferred, where possible. Please include the author’s full name, current institution and occupation in a short bio at the end of the document. The contributions will be reviewed by CRFR co-directors and we aim to get back to you with decisions within a fortnight of submission.