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Living through lockdown is particularly challenging for families who have children with autism.1 People may be disabled by their autism in different ways and to varying degrees (some with co-occurring conditions), thus experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have varied between people and families. This is not because of autism per se, but due to social, spatial, and economic inequalities between families. During lockdown, the home has been the primary location where these differences are lived and felt.

Drawing on research with London-based parents who have autistic children,2 this chapter highlights pre-existing housing inequalities which have exacerbated the challenges for many of managing the COVID-19 lockdowns (see also Tunstall, Chapter Two; Kayanan et al, Chapter Seventeen; Graham et al, Volume 1). The chapter raises issues of space, safety, and care in and out of the home. Learning from COVID-19 and in anticipation of future pandemics, it makes two recommendations. First, the appropriate allocation of social housing where necessary to families who have disabled children. Second, adequate financial and practical support for adult and young carers, who continue to bear the brunt of inadequate social care in the UK.

Housing inequalities matter for children with autism and their families. Autism affects people across the socio-economic spectrum and from all ethnicities and nationalities, but some children and their families are more likely to be living in unsuitable housing than others.

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Researching Poverty and Low-Income Family Life during the Pandemic

Epdf and ePUB available Open Access under CC BY NC ND licence.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone – but, for some, existing social inequalities were exacerbated, and this created a vital need for research.

Researchers found themselves operating in a new and difficult context; they needed to act quickly and think collectively to embark on new research despite the constraints of the pandemic. This book presents the collaborative process of 14 research projects working together during COVID-19. It documents their findings and explains how researchers in the voluntary sector and academia responded methodologically, practically, and ethically to researching poverty and everyday life for families on low incomes during the pandemic.

This book synthesises the challenges of researching during COVID-19 to improve future policy and practice.

Also see ‘A Year Like No Other: Family Life on a Low Income in COVID-19’ to find out more about the lived experiences of low-income families during the pandemic.

Open access

This introductory chapter begins by presenting the unique collaborative approach taken by the ‘COVID-19 and families on a low income: Researching together’ collective, whose work features across the 14 chapters of this book. We highlight the novel interdisciplinary, holistic, mixed methods approaches that have been adopted to produce a complex and cohesive evidence base with a substantive focus on families living on a low income. A brief background literature relating to austerity as the foundational context to the COVID-19 crisis is outlined to illustrate how and why the crisis has impacted upon families on a low income in the UK. Finally, an overview of the key overarching themes and connections across projects and their corresponding chapters is outlined to provide a roadmap of the text. Several key thematic areas are foregrounded, including the (in)adequacy of the social security system response; getting by in hard times; and the importance (and often lack of) support networks for families on a low income.

Open access

This collection emphasises that while the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented, its impacts have been so severe because poverty, insecurity, and financial hardship were already factors of life for many families on a low income even before the first lockdown in the UK in March 2020. As the chapters in this collection illustrate, people find themselves trapped in protracted states of precarious, low-paid, and temporary employment, reliant on inadequate social security payments for some or all of their income, and with spiralling debts. The chapters in this collection provide evidence that, despite central and devolved Governments implementing short-term measures to bolster some aspects of social security during the pandemic, the financial, practical, emotional, and social consequences of COVID-19 for low-income families have been acute. In this brief concluding chapter, we first draw out three key overarching themes across the chapters, with accompanying policy recommendations. Then, we reflect on the benefits of collaborative research on low-income family life, before finally offering suggestions for how this way of working could continue well beyond the pandemic, and why this matters.

Open access