Kent awarded funding to research the social implications of COVID-19

Kent, in partnership with Belong: The Cohesion and Integration Network, has been funded by the Nuffield Foundation to carry out research into how societal cohesion has been affected by the COVID-19 emergency.

Professor Dominic Abrams and Dr Fanny Lalot of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Group Processes will lead the research, alongside Belong to use data that emerges in real time.

The project will build on existing data focussing on societal cohesion during Brexit. Data will be gathered through surveys of representative samples in Kent, Scotland and Wales, and five local authorities, and combined with qualitative data, including insights from community activists. The research will test how cohesion is made better or worse, how and why individuals become involved or disengaged with groups and communities. This evidence will provide insight into how significant medium term pressures are borne within regions, communities and by individuals.

The findings will provide a rich historical record of what is happening to societal cohesion as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, and will support policy to build resilience against future short, medium and long term challenges.

The team have been awarded £234,559 to conduct the intensive research that will take place over the next nine months.

Dominic Abrams, Professor of Social Psychology said: ‘We are delighted to have this opportunity to understand what is happening to people’s sense of connection and belonging, their priorities and feelings during this extraordinary time. We hope that this research will break new scientific ground whilst also contributing valuable evidence for policy.’

Alex Beer, Welfare Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said: ‘During the massive social upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen many people and communities organise for the benefit of others, but some disadvantaged groups remain overlooked. This project will inform policy by investigating the impact of the crisis on social cohesion and the factors which shape people’s attitudes and behaviours.’

Jo Broadwood, Chief Executive of Belong: The Cohesion and Integration Network added: ‘We are really pleased to be working with Dominic, his team and the Nuffield Foundation and are excited about the potential for this project to impact on both practice and policy in the future. We think there is much that we can learn from the huge outbreak of kindness and connection in neighbourhoods across the UK and the findings will have relevance for strengthening social bonds, resilience and cohesion as we emerge from the crisis.’