Stephen has worked as a sociologist and qualitative researcher in the fields of public health and substance use for over twenty years. Since joining the National Addiction Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, he continues to provide support in qualitative research across several projects including those relating to opioid use, opioid-related overdose and use of naloxone.
Stephen’s area of research expertise is applied qualitative research to provide ‘real world’ findings for service commissioners, service providers, service users and associated stakeholders. His most notable applied work relates to a multi-site ethnographic study of street-based injecting drug, drug-related litter and associated harm and hazard from the perspectives of people with experience of homelessness/rough sleeping and who also inject drugs.
Conducting socially distanced qualitative research with people experiencing rough sleeping during the COVID-19 pandemic (June-October 2020)
*Aims*: In March 2020, the UK government introduced a national initiative that sought to temporarily accommodate people experiencing rough sleeping in hotels as a public health response to Covid-19. Covid-19 brought people with complex problems who are normally ‘hard to reach’ together, but also made social research more difficult due to stringent social distancing rules. This presentation aims to summarise how qualitative research methods were implemented as part of a localised evaluation of 2 London hotels involved in the initiative.
*Methods*: We employed a range of adapted qualitative methods to undertake the study. These included socially distanced leaflet dropping, telephone-based participant recruitment, a multi-stage, longitudinal qualitative interview conducted using mobile telephones, digital recording, remote anonymised data entry, and the coordination/training of 11 volunteer interviewers using Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp.
*Results*: To-date, 32 individuals with recent experience of rough sleeping have been recruited into the study. A total of 160 interviews have been completed with 32 people whilst they were living in 2 London hotels and approximately 50 follow-up interviews have been completed with approximately 10 people after they left the hotels. Data have been summarised into Excel spreadsheets in preparation for a Framework analysis.
*Conclusions*: The application of adaptive qualitative methods by a team of willing, enthusiastic and committed researchers has made it possible to successfully conduct social research during a public health crisis. This has generated meaningful qualitative data but also provided insights that will be relevant to others conducting future research with hard-to-reach populations during social distancing.