North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) Community Learning and Development (CLD) Youthwork recognised the social isolation that faced many young people during the Covid-19 lockdown. Young people were faced with a disruption to their routine from attending youth groups, seeing friends and family as well as contending with a general atmosphere of fear of the unknown for the future.
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The need to prioritise crisis support to the most vulnerable young people was the main focus of CLD Youthwork provision at this time. This project was called the “Airdrie CLD: ASN Support group” and was aimed at teenagers with Additional Support Needs (ASN) who were about to leave high school and prepare for their transition into either employment, volunteering, training or further education. One of the seven national youth work outcomes is “young people are confident, resilient and optimistic for the future”. Working with this focus the NLC CLD Youthwork team aimed to address the primary issue of the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s health and wellbeing.
The social isolation facing young people was a huge factor with mental well-being as the main challenge that young people noted, citing the feeling of “complete frustration” of feeling trapped and alone. These issues were not only affecting young people but were having an impact on the rest of the family too.
- How do I identify the needs of young people in the current circumstances?
- How am I helping young people to continue to engage in learning and wider opportunities?
- What support and information can I signpost young people to?
- How might the support and provision for young people need to be adapted or done differently during Covid-19?
- How can I raise awareness of the needs of young people during this time and ensure that their needs and voices are heard in recovery planning?
- How am I measuring the impact of new approaches and services and evolving these to suit the needs of young people?
What was done
The CLD Youthwork service worked in partnership with Airdrie locality Social Work team to help to refer young people with ASN who were identified as vulnerable and struggling during Covid-19 lockdown especially around issues of mental health and isolation.
The challenges faced by staff were to create a safe, youth friendly and fun space where youth work could take place for the young people with additional support needs. It was apparent that support was required out with the home setting and the young people struggled with online engagement. CLD Youthwork worked in partnership with Social Work and the local Community Hub to identify one room within the Community Hub that could be utilised for the group. All government guidelines were followed in terms of physical distancing. Staff worked in allocated bubbles, incorporating smaller group work activities within the guidelines of the Community Hub. Staff followed protocols ensuring specific laptops for each person, I-pads and all necessary cleaning and sanitising was carried out.
The group worked with Deep Fried Films, using creative arts to look at the effects of lockdown, through a range of mediums from music, writing and art as a way to express their thoughts and ideas. This proved a cathartic experience for the young people.
Impact on Learners
The group managed to continue to fulfil its aims of supporting young people with additional support needs to increase their independence, improve their social and emotional support and engage in activities to support social skills in a nurturing environment.
The feedback from young people has all been positive with end evaluations including the following: “having fun”, “getting the chance to meet face to face”, “getting out of the house and learning new things”. Social work staff who supported the young people noticed the programme had a huge effect on building the young people’s confidence and provided the chance to increase their social circle.
When the group finished, two of the members volunteered with young people as part of the Airdrie Summer hub provision, assisting CLD youth workers and sport staff providing games and activities on a daily basis for children of key workers and vulnerable young people. The young people enjoyed the experience as this was their first-time volunteering and they were able to achieve Saltire Awards for volunteering.
NLC Youthwork continues to work in partnership with locality social work supporting young people access a wide range of digital youth work through their CLD Facebook page. The young people have taken up a range of opportunities including online cooking, games and quizzes as well as an online “Living life to the full” programme aimed at helping promote positive mental health. These opportunities are continuing through Covid-19 and reflect the newly developed online learning offer for young people in North Lanarkshire during this difficult time.