Dumfries & Galloway Youth Work Service
Continuing our case studies on the amazing response of CLD during COVID-19 lockdown, we now want to highlight work from Dumfries & Galloway’s Youth Work Service.
Dumfries and Galloway (D&G) council youth work service identified several challenges as lockdown was introduced. These included the need to: provide young people with the latest information; establish a way to maintain contact with more vulnerable young people (previously engaged through the ‘youth work in secondary schools mental health initiative’); develop a new method of delivering youth engagement through digital platforms; and, consider a method of engaging young people with little or no access to the internet.
Youth workers responded swiftly to these challenges and: created digital information clips, and introduced a youth information line available 6 days a week, 12 hours a day; contacted vulnerable young people on an individual basis to provide on-going support; worked with young people to secure grant funding and co-produce 1000 ‘isolation packs’ containing activities and access to the ‘Hi5 STEM award’ for young people with no digital access; and, developed #HomeFest, a 4 day programme (10am-9pm) during the Easter holidays with a new activity available every hour.
Further to this, examples of targeted support include: provision of activity books for young parents to support their learning and care for their children; and assist young people to access funding for essentials like food, heating, and ‘top-ups’.
Local authority officers advise the geography in Dumfries and Galloway is recognised to cause a sense of isolation and disconnect for some young people. Therefore, youth work services and education staff are now jointly hosting a weekly webinar (also supported by the D&G youth council and school captains) where young people can ask questions of hosts with a collective range of expertise.
Local authority officers shared insight to some of the impacts to date. Examples of positive impacts include; 35 young people supported to gain their Hi5 STEM award since lockdown began; young people and parents seeking support from the youth work service for the first time, maintaining contact with young people previously registered with youth services to support them with challenges they’ve encountered in lockdown; youth workers temporarily deployed to social services experiencing strengthened relationships with social work colleagues; and, the opportunity to shift some service delivery online – with the success of #HomeFest influencing current service delivery
However it is important to note online engagement methods are viewed as most effective in the current circumstances – but not a replacement for face to face practice.
Negative impacts are reported to include: evidence of increased numbers of young people struggling with mental health issues, to be considered as part of any post-covid response; and, the digital deficit experienced by young people with a lack of access to technology at home.
D&G council youth work service identify a number of areas for consideration looking forward: Investment in staff training to facilitate delivery of high quality youth work online; Investment in local broadband infrastructure to ensure equal access for all young people; Funding for local authority youth work to support young people in the recovery from COVID such as managing loss, and reintroduction to social situations; and finally, reinstating youth work staff teams temporarily diminished in size (due to deployment of staff to other business critical council services), once restrictions are lifted.
For more information check out @YOUTHWORKDG on twitter and this short video: https://twitter.com/YOUTHWORKDG/status/1298307452446924801?s=20