#Invest in Youth Work

Of course, the lockdown and the new social distancing rules have changed the working landscape. There is no doubt that young people need youth work now more than ever and will continue to need us in the recovery period post lockdown.

But youth workers have been faced with a monumental challenge. How can we retain contact with and meet the needs of young people without coming into direct contact, and how can we deliver group work without bringing young people together in a physical space?

Digital Youth Work Guidance, you can download a copy from our website – http://www.youthhighland.org.uk

Around half of our member clubs continue to deliver some form of youth work. Don’t underestimate how difficult this is. Youth work is traditionally based in physical spaces and relies on delivery of group work in bustling community halls and youth club buildings. Youth workers have had to navigate a previously unknown digital landscape and make important decisions about how to present themselves in it.

The Youth Highland team! Top left – Rhiannon, top right – Jacquie, bottom left – Louise, bottom right – Clair.

Our small team at Youth Highland has had to adapt quickly to enable us to respond to the changing needs of our member clubs and young people.

Jacquie and Clair have worked hard to offer support and guidance to youth workers, helping them to use new methods and adopt appropriate digital policies and procedures to keep young people safe online.

Rhiannon and Louise have continued to deliver our regular youth work projects and learning programmes in online sessions. This has helped us to understand how lockdown is affecting young people, and enabled us to offer support and guidance to young people with a range of challenges and issues.

Young people have expressed different needs and preferences and workers have had to respond in different ways – personal chats, groups chats, video group calls, tiktok, memes, activity based recorded sessions.

All the while it has been crucial to remember we are delivering this service at a time of global crisis, so the need to consider how to record youth work sessions, how to recognise young people in distress and how to respond when there is a concern.

Ironically it seems that isolation has brought the youth work community closer than ever. In a period when we have been stuck in isolation in our own homes we have had more opportunities to learn from other youth workers than ever before.

We are seeing strengthened relationships and increased collaboration within the regional Voluntary Youth Network. A range of National online forums are regularly meeting and sharing good practice. There have even been opportunities to link up with the global youth work community and to learn how youth workers in other countries have responded to isolation before us and delivered youth work during lockdown.

Next week to mark volunteers week I will be writing a number of blog posts. Each one will focus on a member club who is stepping up and providing essential services for young people and their families during this strange and unprecedented time.

Each blog will be a big thank you and a recognition of the work of voluntary youth organisations in meeting the needs of young people. Perhaps, even in the current situation we can celebrate the strength of the relationships, the skills and the hard work of some truly incredible community organisations and initiatives which exist across Highland.

#Its time to say thanks

June 1ST – 7TH marks volunteers week. This years theme was going to be ‘Lets Celebrate’. But because we have all found ourselves in the midst of an emergency global pandemic, the theme has been changed.

I enjoy celebrating and have been known to really enjoy a good party. But now doesn’t seem the best time to celebrate. As a mum of 3 children who have had birthdays during lockdown I can definitely say it has been difficult to successfully organise 2020 celebrations.

No gatherings or parties celebrating volunteers will be allowed in 2020 and we will need to mark volunteers week by promoting staying safe and maintaining social distancing rules.

However, this year’s new theme is one I can get behind, and I hope I can persuade others to get fully behind it too. ‘Its Time to say thanks’ is a great theme for the voluntary youth sector in Highland and I hope together we will be able to raise awareness of our work during volunteers week. It is time to recognise the value of volunteering and of community organisations. To recognise the difference this work makes in our Highland communities and to say a big thank you.

Over the last seven years I have been privileged to lead Youth Highland and the voluntary youth sector through some of the toughest times it has ever experienced. A major part of my job is spent supporting voluntary Youth club management committees to seek 100% of their running costs to ensure the survival of community based youth work across the Highlands.

Youth Highland currently supports more than 140 organisations from across the region through the Voluntary Youth Network.

Our membership includes about 50 traditional youth clubs, playschemes and community based groups. These groups work with local volunteers – mums and dads, local community members, young adults, unemployed people.

Volunteers tell us that through helping to run youth clubs they gain new skills and qualifications, feel less isolated, make new friends and build up confidence.

Youth Highland also works closely with specialist organisations who provide support for young people. We have encouraged organisations to use a collaborative approach which supports early intervention and prevention. Organisations active in the Voluntary Youth Network include bereavement and mental health services, disabled organisations, young carers and care experience groups, criminal justice and addiction services.

By using a youth work approach and promoting volunteering, we can support young people facing specific challenges to participate in group work and recognise their lived experiences to positively help other young people. If you would like to know more about the work of Youth Highland and our network of third sector and voluntary youth organisations please sign up to receive our regular newsdrop by contacting jacquie.steel@youthhihgland.org.uk, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or visit our website at www.youthhighland.org.uk

#Be Kind for Mental Health Awareness Week

Since the start of the CV-19 lockdown my social media feeds keep telling me that we are all in the same boat but some of us travelling in choppier waters.

We are all living in strange times with heightened anxiety and new and difficult challenges.

This week marks mental health week in the UK. The theme this year is kindness.

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We want to use Mental Health Awareness Week to celebrate the thousands of acts of kindness that are so important to our mental health. And we want to start a discussion on the kind of society we want to shape as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Over the past 2 months, thousands of acts of kindness have been undertaken by volunteers across Highland. It has been inspiring to see Youth Highland member clubs stepping up and responding to the needs of their local communities. Although our member clubs usually offer safe spaces and social opportunities to children and young people, they have been able to adapt and offer alternative support in the face of the global pandemic and fast changing community needs.

12 of our member clubs are offering essential emergency support – filling and distributing food parcels for families and activity packs for children and young people, delivering prescriptions and making calls to isolated older people to help keep them safe and feel less alone.

Our clubs are very well placed to offer this support. They are run by local people who are trusted within their local communities. They have strong and established relationships with individuals and families and they know which households might need a bit of extra support in such difficult times.

Many of our member clubs, and other voluntary organisations in Highland are offering support to young people online. This is new territory for many youth workers but has proved essential – ensuring young people maintain contact with trusted adults and are able to share their worries and talk about their hopes for the future.

Last week, YouthLink Scotland launched a campaign to ‘Invest in Youth Work’ stating that they expect an impending youth mental health crisis as a result of months of isolation for Scotland’s young people.

This prospect is very worrying. We must be ready and prepare to offer support and kindness to our children and young people as lockdown is loosened.

We cannot return to the ‘old normal’. We need to embrace and encourage change. Communities have proved that they are strong and resilient and able to make decisions and take control.

We must learn from our experiences during lockdown and encourage and celebrate more kindness as we move from a state of emergency into a period of recovery.

If you would like to know more about the work of Youth Highland and our network of more than 130 third sector and voluntary youth organisations please sign up to receive our regular newsdrop by contacting jacquie.steel@youthhihgland.org.uk, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or visit our website at www.youthhighland.org.uk