Introduction to the Report
This study explores the lived experiences of care leavers in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic. While Covid-19 has undoubtedly been difficult for many groups (Pierce et al., 2020), care leavers are among those who may have faced additional pressures during this period. International evidence suggests that under normal conditions care leavers may already face more difficulties in relation to accommodation, employment, health, and wellbeing as well as facing increased risks of social isolation (Cameron et al., 2018; Gypen et al., 2017; Jackson & Cameron, 2012). A small number of studies examining various aspects of care leavers’ experiences during Covid-19 in other jurisdictions suggests that many care leavers did indeed experience specific struggles related to these issues (e.g. Kelly et al., 2020; Roberts et al., 2020).
Leaving care at age 18 is an additional challenge that care leavers must negotiate on top of the normal demands at this age of youth transitions towards greater personal autonomy (across work, education, romance and possibly moving out of home). There is also, however, growing evidence that not all care leavers end up in difficulty and at least some care leavers may fare relatively well over time despite the structural and social pressures they may face (Brady & Gilligan, 2019; Hanrahan et al., 2020). The Covid-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to learn more about the good and bad experiences care leavers encountered in this historic moment and the resources they drew on as they faced into the challenges and opportunities posed during life in the time of Covid-19. This study also offers potential wider learning about critical aspects of how care leavers negotiate adversity more generally in their lives.
To that end, the aim of this study was to explore care leavers’ lived experience of life in the time of Covid-19. Its core objectives were:
1. To interview care leavers in Ireland about their lived experience of life in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
2. To gain insight into the big and small changes in care leavers’ everyday lives that came with the Covid-19 pandemic – both during lockdown and after restrictions began to lift.
3. To learn how care leavers have tried to negotiate their way through those changes, the challenges and opportunities they encountered along the way, and the formal or informal resources they have found helpful.
4. To explore how care leavers made sense of their experience during this unique period in history and their views on whether and how their lives may be different in the future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
5. To provide key messages for research, policy, and practice.
This study was guided by the following research question:
How have care leavers in Ireland experienced life in the time of Covid-19?
It should be noted that this study does is not an evaluation of service provision; it is a study of lived experience. This report provides an overview of our key findings for stakeholders in the care leaver and children in care systems.
Read the full report (PDF)
About the Authors
Professor Robbie Gilligan is Professor of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin. His research interests relate to children and young people in challenging circumstances with a special focus on children and young people in care, and adults with experience of state care in childhood. He is a registered social worker and former foster carer. He serves on the Editorial Boards of a number of journals including Child Abuse and Neglect, Children and Society and Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma.
Dr Eavan Brady is an Assistant Professor in Social Work in the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin. Eavan is a registered social worker and vice-Chair of the Irish Aftercare Network. Her research interests are located in the field of child welfare with a particular focus on the long-term wellbeing and outcomes of children in care, care leavers, and children experiencing disadvantage.
Laura Cullen graduated with a Master in Social Work degree from Trinity College Dublin in 2019. She went on to work in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency and now works for the Health Service Executive in an Adult Safeguarding and Protection team in Dublin.