I-SPHERE Newsletter – September 2020

As we are into September and its back to school, college and University across the UK, here is a look forward to ‘the new term’ ahead and a recap on what I-SPHERE has been up to over the last few months.


As you would expect a huge part of our work over the last few months, and continuing going forward, relates to the COVID 19 pandemic – analysing and working with partners to minimise the negative impacts on peoples’ lives.
We started two new research projects on the impact of the pandemic – one for the Trussell Trust and one for Aberlour – and many of our existing major research projects have been adapted to incorporate the impact of COVID 19, including: Destitution in the UK, for Joseph Rowntree Foundation; the Homeless Monitor Series, for Crisis; and the evaluation of the Institute of Global Homelessness Vanguard Cities Programme, for the Oak Foundation.

I-SPHERE team members have contributed to Government and key cross-sector working groups to reduce the impact of the pandemic on children and families, and on people facing homelessness, poverty and destitution. We are immensely grateful to have had the chance to be involved in such huge team efforts.

Homelessness in Scotland

  • Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group
    In March, Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) was re-convened. The group, chaired by Jon Sparkes from Crisis, includes I-SPHERE director Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, and met several times online over the period. In July it published its recommendations on tackling homelessness and rough sleeping following the pandemic.
  • Everyone Home – The Scotland Collective on Homelessness & COVID 19
    I-SPHERE was invited to join the ‘Everyone Home’ Collective, a collaboration between leading third sector partners and academics led by Homeless Network Scotland. The Collective has published several route maps since May aiming to prompt forward movement in local and national efforts to tackle homelessness now and in the aftermath of the pandemic. It sets out 3 immediate priorities of: More homes for good health, No return to rough sleeping, No eviction into homelessness.

Homelessness in England

Crisis recently published our Homelessness Monitor England 2020: COVID-19 Crisis Response Briefing. Fitzpatrick, S, Watts, B., & Simms, R. (2020) which sets out learning from the crisis response to getting ‘everyone in’ and makes recommendations for the future.

Supporting children through the pandemic

Professor Morag Treanor provided expert advice to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner Scotland. Her impact assessment on poverty, food and digital access formed a key aspect of the Commissioners Independent Impact Assessment on Children’s Rights and Covid 19  

Recent publications, articles and blogs related to the pandemic

Professor Glen Bramley was featured in a Guardian article on ‘Reports of rough sleeping rose over lockdown despite hotels scheme’ ‘ highlighting that the true number of rough sleepers could be ‘far higher’ than government figures suggest. You can also read more in a related article in the Scottish Housing News.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick was quoted in The Atlantic article ‘What coronavirus proved about homelessness’ and in the Financial Times Article ‘The lockdown has transformed life for the homeless- but what now’ . Suzanne’s blog for Inside Housing stressed that ‘Communal shelters for homeless people cannot belong in our future’  and she presented evidence on improving future provision at the Centre for Homelessness Impact’s IMPACT festival on 22nd July.

Professor Morag Treanor influenced the debate on free school meals with her I-SPHERE blog used by The Poverty and Inequality Commission to lobby Scottish Government for change. You can also listen to a conversation with Morag in her podcast for Scottish Educators Connect on child poverty and schooling.

Dr Jenny Wood’s work with A Place in Childhood has included Participatory Action Research with children and young people across Scotland on their lives in Lockdown. The #ScotYouthandCOVID project includes a review of the impact of school closures on the attainment gap that was featured in the Scotland on Sunday. You can also check out Jenny Wood’s fantastic new book – Place, Pedagogy and Play: Participation, Design and Research with Children.

Our State of Hunger research for the Trussel Trust was quoted in the Guardian in June with further research on the impact of the pandemic on foodbank use due shortly.

The localism debate

In June, I-SPHERE’s Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Beth Watts and honorary professor Hal Pawson article in Policy and Politics The limits of localism: a decade of disaster on homelessness in England prompted a lively debate. The paper presented a challenging argument that proved controversial in some quarters but attracted strong support from many in the homelessness sector. The article was the basis for a blog for the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Team news

In August we welcomed Dr Dan Hope as our new research associate at I-SPHERE. Dan works on our collaborative project with the Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government, led by Sam Thomas, which is examining the impact of innovative, relational and capability-based responses to poverty and disadvantage across Scotland. Dan has a PhD in Sociology and before joining I-SPHERE, he worked as a research officer with the Scottish Government where he facilitated a longitudinal co-design project, working with social security clients to create a ‘measurement framework’ to assess the implementation of the commitments in Scotland’s social security charter.

Over the last few months we have been grateful for the time and expertise of Rhiannon Simms who has been supporting I-SPHERE research on a voluntary basis. Rhiannon has significant policy and research experience having worked for Oxfam on tackling poverty and inequality and for Citizens Advice Scotland on social security benefits. Her experience and expertise has been hugely valued and we cannot thank her enough for her support.

I-SPHERE PhD Researcher Lynne McMordie has had a paper published in leading journal Housing Studies on how avoidance of temporary accommodation for people experiencing homelessness can be a rational and reasonable response to an intensely stressful environment . The paper was based on research she undertook with ISPHERE and the Oak Foundation as our first research intern.

Congratulations to Charlotte McPherson our current I-SPHERE and the Oak Foundation research intern who completed her phenomenal PhD at Stirling University with no corrections. Charlotte shared her research findings on young people’s subjective experiences of social and intergenerational injustice in Scotland as part of our seminar programme and you can watch again here.

We are now recruiting for our next I-SPHERE and Oak Foundation Research Intern. The internship is a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers to undertake their own independent research project, supported by us, that can influence real change. It also provides the opportunity to work with the Oak Foundation to develop invaluable knowledge and skills in philanthropy, grant-making and working across the voluntary sector. The closing date for applications is the 14th September.

Seminar Programme

We have moved to an online I-SPHERE seminar programme and have some exciting seminars coming up that everyone is welcome to join:

  • On Wednesday 16th September we will welcome Chris Parker, Crisis Programme Lead for the partnership to end homelessness in Newcastle. Chris previously worked for Newcastle City Council on Government backed housing first trailblazing initiative and has a PhD on the implementation of Housing First. He will brings insights from his work and research into this seminar on the Lived Experiences of choice, control and success in Housing First.
  • On 14th October, we are delighted to be hosting a joint seminar with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) on Administrative data for social policy research: potential and pitfalls. Professor Nick Bailey from The University of Glasgow and Associate Director of SCADR who leads research on social security will present and the seminar will be chaired by his fellow SCADR Director, I-SPHERE’s Professor Morag Treanor.
  • We also look forward to welcoming Koldo Casla of the University of Essex in November to talk about ‘Freedom and social citizenship: In defence of public services that stem from social rights’; and in December, Rachel Dobson of Birkbeck on ‘Complex Needs in Homelessness Policy and Practice: new markets of vulnerability’

Moving online has been a great way of engaging more people than ever in our seminars and we have been delighted to welcome attendees from far afield. We have also been able to record the seminars so you can also look back at previous events.

  • Young people’s subjective experiences of social and intergenerational injustice in Scotland Charlotte McPherson
  • Multiple Exclusion Homelessness, attachment and relationship with care: A missing link? Nikoletta Theodorou
  • Family Values: the prioritisation of children in UK homelessness policy by Katie Colliver and Discretion and social control in supported accommodation for young people in Scotland by Philippa Watkin

Click here for all the latest on our seminar programme, joining instructions for future events or to view again.

New Research Projects

Children’s outcomes and equalities (Treanor) ESRC
This major new project with the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research will examine the variation between schools and local authorities in their policies and practice regarding temporary exclusions and authorised/unauthorised absence, and establish what works in reducing exclusions and authorised, unauthorised absences and improving attainment and post-school destinations. We are currently recruiting for a Research Associate to support the research.

Potential destitution and foodbank demand resulting from COVID-19 crisis in UK, The Trussell Trust (Bramley)
The research aims to:
1. Anticipate potential changes in the scale and pattern of demand for foodbank services over time and space in the coming weeks and months, so as to guide TT and other emergency food providers’ operational response to Coronavirus;
2. Provide rapid evidence on the emergence and significance of problems in the mechanisms responding to the emergency put in place by government and other bodies (e.g. banks) which may lead to significant numbers of individuals being put at risk of destitution, and so to act as a tool for policymakers and government to target financial support for those who need it most

Families And COVID-19 (Treanor) Aberlour
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Aberlour has been providing financial assistance to families across Scotland via its Urgent Assistance fund. Professor Morag Treanor has been appointed to undertake a process and outcome evaluation of the programme.

More information

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