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Lived Experience and Real-time Insight

08 Dec, 2022

Through Covid Realities and now Changing Realities we have developed new ways of researching and working together. Today, we launch a series of films sharing different takes and reflections on what we do and why. To accompany the launch of these films we are also sharing this reflection on researching together from Alex Beer, Programme Head of Welfare at the Nuffield Foundation.

The Nuffield Foundation is delighted to have funded Covid Realities. It is important, collaborative research that has captured the experiences of families on a low income, influenced government policy and examined the responses of the social security system. The research has been made possible thanks to the active contributions of so many people – parents in families living on low incomes, welfare rights advisers and numerous research teams – but it would not have come to fruition without the vision, commitment and care of the Covid Realities research team.

The Nuffield Foundation’s mission is to advance social well-being. We do this by funding research and analysis in the areas of education, welfare and justice, to help better understand the issues affecting people’s life chances and the forces that are changing the structure and context of people’s lives. The research we fund aims to inform social policy by demonstrating how we might address inequalities, discrimination and vulnerabilities in an increasingly diverse and fragmented society.

At the start of the pandemic, we called for research that would capture in real time the experience of its social and economic impact. The Covid Realities team responded to that challenge, proposing and ultimately delivering a multi-faceted approach. They used the Child Poverty Action Group’s Early Warning System to highlight social security design and delivery issues identified by welfare rights advisers, gave voice to families living on a low income as they navigated the pandemic, and promoted collaboration and shared learning on researching ethically and effectively during the pandemic.

The learning from the project was shared in real time, with key insights shared regularly with policymakers, practitioners, the media and the wider public – with the voices from Covid Realities participants dispelling myths in their testimony of the reality of life lived on low incomes. They contributed to calls for policy action, including to delay the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, and have highlighted big questions that remain about how to improve the adequacy of the social security system, and the quality of interaction and supports that people have through it.

I learned so much through my involvement with Covid Realities, but not just about what other people’s experiences have been. I also witnessed how the research team have maintained an ethos of care and compassion throughout, an ethos that the social security system itself could learn much from.

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