Based on a series of interviews with first responders in the UK, researchers aim to understand more about the factors that affect collective working in the context of the Covid-19 response. This introduction will be followed by a series of briefing blogs that will present findings from these interviews, alongside relevant theory, to generate evidence and theory-based recommendations in order to support the ongoing development of good working practice in the multi-agency response to the Covid-19 pandemic across the UK.
The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in living memory, owing to the scale, longevity and unique complexity of the response that it requires of the UK emergency services and partner agencies.
The co-ordinated response of Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) and Civil Contingency Groups (CCGs) across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have brought together partners from a range of different agencies, including the Police, Fire and Rescue (FRS) and Ambulance Services, local authorities and voluntary sector, which have been required to work collectively and interdependently.
The nature of this pandemic has put extra demand for effective joint working on partners. It is therefore important to understand more about the factors that affect the collective working of responding agencies in the context of this health crisis.
The Social Identity Approach is a theoretical framework that can be applied to improve understanding of the challenges responders are currently facing in the Covid-19 crisis. This approach suggests that people have both personal and social identities that are based on group memberships, and that different social identities can become salient in various contexts. When people identify as a group, it affects both the way in which they interact with members of their own group and how they interact with members of other groups.
The current Covid-19 response involves interactions between a number of different groups including (but not limited to) members of the public, local responders and the national government. Within each of these broader groups, there are subgroups (for example, responders from different emergency service organisations), the identities of which may become salient at different times.
According to this theory, different groups have different identities and norms. A shared identity within a group enables co-ordination and co-operation between group members because they share the same norms and goals, thus increasing the ability of the group to work more effectively together, as well as fostering trust in other group members.
For two different groups to work together effectively, therefore, they need a shared identity at the superordinate level. Where one group has authority or a particular expertise, its actions must be perceived to be legitimate, fair and proportionate by other in order to create such a shared identity. However, where one group perceives another group’s actions to be illegitimate, shared identity cannot develop; conflict, rather than co-operation, can arise between the two groups.
Legitimacy, and hence identification, can be enhanced through the provision of open and honest information from one group to another; failure to provide such information can result in perceptions of illegitimacy.
A series of ongoing, semi-structured interviews are being conducted with responders from each blue light service, as well as local authorities, involved in strategic and tactical coordination groups across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Their purpose is to understand how the response to Covid-19 develops and changes over time. In the first interview, the questions focus on roles and responsibilities in the response, multi-agency working and any key challenges faced. Subsequent interviews examine any developments or changes that responders have faced since the previous interview.
The findings from these interviews will be presented in a series of blog posts. Findings will be presented alongside relevant theory to generate evidence and theory-based recommendations in order to support the ongoing development of good working practice in the multi-agency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Louise Davidson, Behavioural Science Team, Emergency Response Department Science & Technology, Health Protection Directorate, Public Health England, UK and School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
- Holly Carter, Behavioural Science Team, Emergency Response Department Science & Technology, Health Protection Directorate, Public Health England
- John Drury, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
- Richard Amlôt, Behavioural Science Team, Emergency Response Department Science & Technology, Health Protection Directorate, Public Health England, UK
- Alexander Haslam, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
- Clifford Stott, School of Psychology, University of Keele, Staffordshire, United Kingdom
- Civil Contingencies Act (2004)
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