Dates: 19 March 2020 – 13 June 2020
Research Team: Dr Laura Cook and Dr Danny Zchomler
Funder: British Academy / Leverhulme Trust


This rapid research study aimed to investigate how social workers were responding to the challenges of social distancing in their work with families. It identifies the possibilities, risks and future implications of ‘virtual’ social work practice.


  • Children and families must be consulted about the recent changes to social work practice
  • Virtual working affords unexpected benefits for social work with children and families, particularly for engaging with young people
  • Virtual engagement has limitations, particularly for child protection and assessment work
  • Virtual home visits create additional risks for professional judgement – particularly around identifying hidden risks
  • Professionals must proactively address barriers to digital inclusion to ensure families have a voice within virtual meetings and reviews
  • Remote working has significant impacts on child and family social workers – these must be addressed to ensure worker wellbeing and retention


Read the research briefing