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?
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.
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.