Let’s Be Heard: Sharing Respondents' Pandemic Experiences, Impacts, and Lessons to be Learned in Scotland | Page 2


Let’s Be Heard is the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry’s listening project. It gives everyone affected by the devolved strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022 the opportunity to share their experiences with the Inquiry.

It is the main way in which people can contribute to the Inquiry and aims to give a voice to as many people across Scotland as possible. Let’s Be Heard allows people to tell the Inquiry about their experiences of the pandemic, how these affected them and any lessons they believe should be learned.

This report aims to set out the preliminary findings from experiences shared with Let’s Be Heard to date. It is hoped people in Scotland who have not already engaged with the project will recognise some of their own experiences in those already shared by others and be encouraged to take part before the National Engagement Period ends on 20 December 2023.

Drawing on a random sample size of 675 experiences, from more than 4,000 responses collected from individuals and groups across Scotland, this report shares an initial thematic analysis from the three key questions Let’s Be Heard has asked the public. These are:

  1. What were your experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic?  
  2. What were the impacts of these experiences on you or the people you know?  
  3. What lessons do you think should be learned from your experiences? 

Structure of this report

The report will begin with some background on the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry and the establishment and approach of Let’s Be Heard. It will provide an overview of the project’s aims, who Let’s Be Heard has heard from, and the analytical approach taken to produce this report. 

The main part of this report, comprising three sections, will share the early findings from experiences submitted to Let’s Be Heard, focusing on experiences, impacts and lessons to be learned. Direct quotes from respondents are provided throughout the report to ensure lived experience is at the forefront of Let’s Be Heard’s preliminary findings. 

It is important to note that the thematic findings represent the views of those who participated with Let’s Be Heard. They do not represent, nor anticipate, the Inquiry’s conclusions.

The analysis in this report is not exhaustive but provides early insights on the content of responses gathered through Let’s Be Heard, and their value to the Inquiry.

The report will conclude by providing an overview of Let’s Be Heard’s approach and the next steps it will take, which include identifying the groups and communities which have not been adequately represented thus far in the project. It is hoped that people in Scotland who have not already engaged with the Inquiry via Let’s Be Heard will be encouraged to do so and to help address the information gaps needed to understand any unequal impacts of the devolved strategic response.

Let’s be Heard and the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry would like to express their sincerest gratitude to everyone who has responded so far, and the organisations which have facilitated those responses, as the findings from the accounts shared will be crucial to informing the Inquiry’s investigations, reporting and final recommendations. 

Background to the Inquiry and Let’s Be Heard

The independent Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry was set up on 28 February 2022 and has been chaired by Lord Brailsford since 28 October 2022. The purpose of the Inquiry is to establish the facts of, and learn lessons from, the strategic devolved response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022. 

Figure 1: A Visual Overview of the Inquiry’s Areas of Investigation
An illustration depicting the 12 areas defined in the Inquiry's Terms of Reference, including the provision of health and social care, education, business, and welfare assistance and financial support.

An illustration depicting the 12 areas defined in the Inquiry's Terms of Reference, including the provision of health and social care, education, business, and welfare assistance and financial support.

The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference (ToR) set out the 12 broad areas it is investigating to identify the lessons that should be learned and make recommendations so Scotland is better prepared in future. These include areas such as the provision of health and social care, education, business, and welfare assistance and financial support. 

To support the development of any recommendations the Inquiry might make, it needs to hear from the people who were directly impacted by the devolved strategic response to the pandemic in Scotland. That is why the Inquiry has established a listening project, Let’s Be Heard: Sharing Scotland’s COVID Experience

Those who wish to take part do not need to have had COVID-19, as Let’s Be Heard is interested in gathering all types of experiences. The information gathered through Let’s Be Heard has equal value to that gathered in other ways, such as at the Inquiry’s impact hearings. 

Let’s Be Heard’s aims 

Let’s Be Heard has three principal aims:

  1. To widen participation in the Inquiry by ensuring lived experience is included in its evidence base.
  2. To provide guidance to the wider Inquiry and help steer the Chair’s investigatory work from an early stage. This will ensure the experiences of those who take part play a crucial role in steering the work of the Inquiry.
  3. To provide an evidence base to support the Inquiry’s reports and recommendations.

A key focus for the Inquiry, and therefore Let’s Be Heard, is investigating whether there were any unequal or disparate impacts for particular groups and individuals. Therefore, Let’s Be Heard has been designed and implemented with inclusivity and accessibility at its heart.

To that end, the design of Let’s Be Heard has been informed by several approaches, including trauma-informed, equalities and human rights-based approaches. 

Who Let’s Be Heard has heard from so far

A key part of the work of Let’s Be Heard is to help the Inquiry determine whether the pandemic in Scotland affected people in different and unequal ways. To help it do this, Let’s Be Heard is collecting equalities data alongside people’s responses to the three core questions. 

People can choose to complete optional additional questions about protected characteristics, including age, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Collecting this data helps Let’s Be Heard better understand the background, intersectionality and inequalities that surround people’s experiences and report on them. This data will also be used during the Focused Engagement Period to identify what places, communities and groups Let’s Be Heard should focus on engaging with next.

illustration of people at different ages

Demographic summary


Middle-aged people were the most frequent respondents to Let's Be Heard, with 46% of participants telling us they were aged 45-64. Children and young people accounted for 9% of participants.

multi-gender symbol

Of those respondents who told Let's Be Heard their gender, 68% were female. About 1% identified as non-binary, trans or having a trans history.

illustration of people from various ethnic backgrounds

White Scottish/English/British people make up the majority of responses to Let's Be Heard, with 86% of participants identifying as such. 1% of submissions were from people who told us they were from a non-white/mixed race background.

disability access symbol

The representation of disabled people has been broadly in line with population demographics, with 25% of participants telling us their disability is covered under the Equality Act 2010.


Key Workers

Key workers have responded to Let's Be Heard in strong numbers, with 57% of respondents telling us they were a key worker during the pandemic. Of these, 27% were working in health and social care.

illustration of a group of people in hard hats and hi-vis vests
Financial Security

Those who have greater financial security have been more likely to contribute to Let's Be Heard. 74% told us they were either "very" or "fairly" financially secure. 26% told us they were "not very" or "not at all" financially secure.

illustration of piles of coins

58% of respondents told us they had, or continue to have, caring responsibilities. A third (33%) of these respondents cared, or continue to care, for their own children or dependents.

illustration of two hands holding a heart


As shown in the two maps below, most of the responses received to date have been from people who identified the Central Belt of Scotland as being where their experiences of the pandemic took place. Fife (11% of total), Glasgow City (9%), and The City of Edinburgh (8%), were the three most frequently selected local authority areas. 

Let’s Be Heard has received proportionally fewer experiences from people in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian, and from people in rural areas compared to urban areas. People living in local authority areas in the Highlands and Islands account for 10% of responses.[1]


[1] Highlands and Islands comprise Argyll and Bute, Highland, Moray, Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles), Orkney, and Shetland. 


Figure 2: Scotland: Submissions by Local Authority
Map of Scotland showing the percentage of Let's Be Heard submissions by locality.

Map of Scotland showing the percentage of Let's Be Heard submissions by locality.

Figure 3: Submissions by Local Authority in the Scottish Central Belt
Map of the Scottish central belt showing percentage of Let's Be Heard submissions by locality.

Map of the Scottish central belt showing percentage of Let's Be Heard submissions by locality.

Who Let’s Be Heard would welcome hearing more from

Let’s Be Heard is keen to hear more from minority ethnic and marginalised groups, especially as it aims to present and emphasise findings in its future reporting on intersectional experiences of unequal and disproportionate impacts in Scotland.

Overall, the responses received from participants who self-identified as "non-white” had several notable characteristics, including some obvious intersections. Some broad findings include:

  • 50% of non-white respondents were frontline key workers, which is marginally more than in overall responses (45%);
  • 50% were also “not very” or “not at all” financially secure, significantly more than the average in overall responses (20%);
  • 35% told Let’s Be Heard they were disabled, more than average (20%); and
  • 55% had caring responsibilities, several of whom spoke at length about the experiences and impact of being an unpaid carer. This was 10% higher than in the overall sample (45%).

What has been emphasised through Let’s Be Heard's preliminary analysis is the underrepresentation of voices from minority ethnic and marginalised communities. 

Let’s Be Heard hopes to find more in-depth thematic findings on intersectional experiences and will therefore focus on reaching minority ethnic and marginalised groups for the rest of its National Engagement Period. This will also be a key objective during its Focused Engagement Period.

Let’s Be Heard’s Analysis

The Sample of Responses

For this report, Let’s Be Heard has reviewed a sample of 675 response forms of the more than 4,000 responses received to date, with 224 of this sample being from children and young people. Organisational reports submitted to Let’s Be Heard also inform these findings, but it should be noted that they do not represent all the reports gathered so far.

The sample comprises responses collected from Let’s Be Heard’s online platform and equivalent paper copy submissions, easy read and children and young people’s forms. Responses used for this report were submitted to Let’s Be Heard from May 2023 to September 2023. 

A full breakdown of these responses is shown in the table below: 


Type of FormResponses
Online Form331
Paper Form115
Easy Read5
Children and Young People Form224


These figures are broadly representative of the proportion of each type of form analysed by Let’s Be Heard for this sample size. This is with the exception of children and young people’s forms, which have been over-sampled because they contain far less detail about experiences than other forms. Let’s Be Heard was keen to ensure the voices of children and young people were fairly represented in this report.

It is important to note that everything shared with Let’s Be Heard is done so in a self-selected manner, which means that the decision to participate in the project is left entirely up to individuals. 


Children and young people

For this report, Let’s Be Heard analysed a sample of 224 responses received from children and young people, as Let’s Be Heard has created dedicated resources for children and young people up to the age of 14, this includes a bespoke response form, which is also available for those up to the age of 19. Most submissions came from those aged 10-19 (61.33%), with 1.78% of participants aged five to nine, and none under four.

Overall, responses from children and young people were brief. These focused on a few central themes: boredom, home-learning and the detrimental impact on mental health. These themes consistently overlapped to build a picture of children and young people in Scotland feeling anxious, under-stimulated and lonely during the pandemic. Often, these feelings were associated with inadequate home-learning arrangements and limited social interaction, which were often made worse by experiences of grief and loss. 

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