News

New research project to investigate impacts of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups

29 Apr 2020

The Scottish Government has awarded funding to a group of University of Glasgow researchers to look into the current and longer-term impact of social distancing and other behavioural measures on vulnerable groups.

The research team, led by SCCJR’s Prof Sarah Armstrong with co-principal investigator Dr Lucy Pickering, will focus on four key groups; the disabled and chronically ill; criminal justice populations; domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors; and refugees, asylum and destitution-affected.

The research will also look at how community organisations support these groups; consider the distinct and shared challenges they face (such as the shift to online support) and find out in which ways they have adapted.

Within six months the research will identify potential support for people, support services and policymakers.

Sarah Armstrong said: “Following the science has been a slogan in much of the public and policy messaging about Covid-19, but less attention is being paid to the social dimensions and impacts. Social factors are at least as important as medical science in supporting an effective response to the pandemic.

“We know that people are not being affected equally by this disease or the measures in place to control it. There are people in society who already were marginalised, isolated or invisible who may become more so, or who may face particular risks and challenges during the pandemic.”

She added that the research will inform Government on how to ensure those who are already marginalised are not forgotten in debates about easing lockdown or preventing the spread of the disease.

Funding for the research is part of a wider package of support from the Scottish Government who have committed £5m to support 55 ‘rapid coronavirus research’ across 15 Scottish universities and research institutions, contributing to global efforts to combat the virus and its wider effects.

At the time of announcement, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I know many academics are already thinking about how their research can be used during this national and international emergency. This funding enables universities and research institutions to immediately draw on the very best science and methodologies available to build on our understanding of this virus, develop new treatments, stop infection and support people’s mental and physical health.”

The research team consists of several SCCJR colleagues including Dr Oona Brooks-Hay, Dr Caitlin Gormley, Dr Nughmana Mirza, Dr Marguerite Schinkel, Prof Fergus McNeill and Prof Michele Burman. They will be joined by fellow co-investigators, Dr Chris Bunn, Dr Nicola Burns, Dr Alicia Davis, Dr Gareth Mulvey, Dr Ida Norberg, Dr Teresa Piacentini, Prof Jude Robinson, Dr Kristina Saunders, Prof Nick Watson and Dr Philippa Wiseman (all Glasgow University) plus seven partner organisations who support the population groups addressed by the research.