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 on project aimed at informing public debate on the impact of COVID-19 and related containment measures on older people and people with disabilities. 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 have engaged Dr. Stephanie Maguire to 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.

Our external partner is AGE Platform Europe, which represents the interests of older people all over Europe.