COVID-19 and Vulnerable Groups

Dr. Gemma Carney (ARK Ageing programme) and Prof. Ann Marie Gray (Co-director of ARK) are working with Dr. Bronagh Byrne at the Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen's University Belfast, and Dr Stephanie Maguire on a project aimed at informing public debate on the impact of COVID-19 and related containment measures on older people and people with disabilities. Our external partner is AGE Platform Europe, which represents the interests of older people all over Europe. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The aim of the project is to inform public debate on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on ‘vulnerable groups,’ particularly people with disabilities and older people in the UK. There are diverse impacts of the pandemic, and social distancing, on these groups.  These include the large numbers of deaths in care homes,  and the shortage of personal carers with access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Other risks include abuse, neglect and deterioration of the mental and physical health of people with autism, dementia and other disabilities.

Through this knowledge exchange project, we will compile evidence to inform public debate in three areas:

  • Authorities were slow to publish data on COVID 19 deaths in care homes. We want to communicate the role of systemic problems in producing higher death tolls in care homes, making links to resourcing (e.g. lack of PPE).
  • To conduct a media analysis to investigate how the term ‘vulnerable people’ is being used in mainstream media to share with external partners (see
  • To work with external partners to produce information in accessible formats but based on social policy research evidence and to devise a campaign plan to disseminate the project’s outputs.


Image of Research Update 134 Caged and Forgotten - older people's letters to the editor about COVID-19
(Research Update 134)
by Gemma M Carney, Stephanie Maguire, Bronagh Byrne and Ann Marie Gray
Stephanie Maguire gives an overview of Caged and Forgotten

Photograph from View Digital online publication
The lessons to be learned from the pandemic are not new – we need a properly funded, regulated and state-guaranteed system of social care
(article on View Digital, 20 November 2020)
by Ann Marie Gray, Gemma Carney and Paula Devine

Image of ARK Feature

'Protect the NHS’ at the cost of care homes? A look behind the death rates in care homes during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic
(ARK Feature 18)
by Ann Marie Gray, Gemma Carney, Paula Devine and Bronagh Byrne

Image of ARK Feature 19


Children in Lockdown - The impact of COVID-19 on children in Northern Ireland
(ARK Feature 19)
by Stephanie Maguire