Development & Alumni Relations Office 


19 March 2021

Researchers from Queen’s have been awarded a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, to research the impact of the COVID pandemic on families caring for loved ones with severe learning difficulties.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s lives. Research has found the pandemic is having an acute impact on those with care and support needs and has been particularly challenging for families with a loved one with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus, families were often spending significant amounts of time caring for a relative in addition to the time they needed to spend on education, work and time for themselves. Coronavirus has significantly increased those pressures.

The research will explore the experiences of families across the UK and Ireland to understand the challenges they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic with a view to making recommendations about service provision. It will also create a co-designed support programme with family members with a loved one with severe learning disabilities, academics in the fields of learning disabilities, disability and psychology, and partners from the independent sector who provide care and support for families.

Dr Mark Linden, Senior Lecturer from School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s and lead researcher on the study, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult and disruptive for us all, and families of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities have been severely negatively impacted.

“This research is an important opportunity to work with partners across the UK and Ireland to highlight the concerns of this group and will help to ensure that families of people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their experiences during this pandemic are heard and supports developed for the future.”

This project is led by Dr Linden in collaboration with academics from Queen’s University, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Glasgow, University of South Wales and The University of Sheffield.

The project also includes independent sector partners from PAMIS, Sunderland People First, Brain Injury Matters, All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers and Irish Society for Autism.

Further information on research and analysis carried out at Queen's in response to COVID-19, can be found at: If you would like to help the University in its efforts to tackle the pandemic, visit our Rapid Response page. To support other health-related research projects at Queen’s, visit the Development and Alumni Relations Office website or contact Teresa Sloan, Head of Health Fundraising. 

Media enquiries should be addressed to the Communications Officer at Queen’s University Belfast.

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