The Department for Education (DfE) established a survey of local authorities in England to help understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on children’s social care. Survey returns are referred to as ‘waves’ in this report. This report summarises the survey returns between Wave 1 (May 2020) and Wave 39 (July 2022). The charts show data from all waves of the survey, however previous publications contain detailed analysis including open text questions from earlier waves of the survey that are not repeated here.
The survey alternated between fortnightly and monthly collections. The exact dates that each wave refers to and the questions asked can be found in the methodology section, alongside details on the number of local authorities that responded to the survey. Local authorities were asked to report on the following areas:
- Contact with children supported by the local authority children’s social care
- Children’s social care workforce
- System pressures
The ‘Characteristics of children in need’ and ‘Children looked after in England including adoptions' publications contain statistics on children’s social care that partially overlap with this survey. Figures may differ due to methodological and timing differences.
The commentary in this release also refers to three ‘waves’ of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide extra context on impacts of the various stages of the pandemic on children’s social care. Dates from the first two waves have been defined using a definition used in a technical report by the Office for National Statistics and the third wave we have defined from the interpretation of ONS infections data. The reference periods of the pandemic waves are as follows:
- First wave: March 2020 to May/June 2020
- Second wave: September 2020 to April 2021, corresponding to the Alpha variant
- Third wave: December 2021 to February 2022, corresponding to the Omicron variant