‘Working Together Online’ A Barnardos Evaluation of Online Work with Children & Families 2021

Dunne, C., McCarthy, N. & Synnott, A. (2021). ‘Working Together Online’ A Barnardos Evaluation of Online Work with Children & Families 2021. https://knowledge.barnardos.ie/handle/20.500.13085/835
In March of 2020, as a worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 swept the globe, Barnardos, like many other frontline service providers, were faced with the complex challenge of continuing to support children and families while lockdown and social distancing measures were in place. The response across the organisation was agile, fast, connected, and caring. One of the key elements of Barnardos response involved using online platforms to ensure that children, parents, and families continued to receive much-needed support and therapeutic services. The provision of programmes and support for children, families, and adult service users via digital and online platforms by Barnardos was limited before the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the restrictions associated with lockdown required significant adjustment and transformation, whilst also maintaining the crucial elements of effective intervention such as connection, collaboration, trust, and support. Funding received from Rethink Ireland in January 2021 has enabled evaluation and reflection on the use of online mediums in service delivery during this period. The overall aim of this evaluation was to identify lessons for future online and digital service delivery. More specifically, this process explored the strengths of the digital services that were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, what gaps existed, and how online and digital practices could be further integrated into service delivery. This evaluation into working online with children and families consisted of a rapid review of relevant literature, and exploration via survey, interview, and focus group data of the experience of children, parents and adults in receipt of Barnardos services, as well as the views of service staff. It is important to note that this is a relatively new method of practice and evaluation in the field of social care. Barnardos is committed to ensuring high quality effective, meaningful, evidence-informed, needs-led, and traumainformed service delivery. Accordingly, this evaluation needed to look at the specific benefits and challenges for those in receipt of and delivering Barnardos services, to identify lessons and recommendations for future service delivery, whereby online service delivery is blended into the Barnardos suite of services, in addition to existing face-to-face services. It is important to note that there are situations, instances, and elements of our work that cannot be replaced by digital work. Nevertheless, the experience during Covid-19 has shed light on the potential strengths and benefits that digital service delivery provides, and how online tools can be deployed within social care settings in a complementary fashion.