Lockdown, digital youth work and the ‘new normal’
Meg Binns from 6VT's Cairn Service encourages all youth workers to 'be brave, flexible and willing for things not to work as expected' as she blogs for us about the challenges of Covid-19 and the 'new normal' of digital youth work.
Like so many other youth organisations, 6VT Edinburgh City Youth Cafe was faced with an unfathomable situation in March 2020. 6VT made the decision to close on the 23rd of March, ahead of the full lockdown measures being implemented, in response to safety concerns being raised from families who were shielding. We knew closing early was the only way to stop the young people attending and putting others at risk.
Quick adjustments to the way services were delivered had to be developed at an astonishing rate. The team worked hard to adapt and develop new support services within a matter of days. The team started online provision within the first week of lockdown. We hosted a number of online supports over the several months of strict measures, which included three nights a week online drop in provision, as well as young parents support, walking, dancing, relaxation and exercise groups.
Alongside these online groups, staff offered online one-to-one support for young people after many reported feeling isolated, worried and bored, while crisis funds were given to those in need to support them through challenging times. Our Cairn Service also continued digitally - 6VT’s ‘one stop shop’ successfully continued in ways we never imagined could be possible!
As the months went by, digital youth work became our ‘new normal’ but of course nothing could ever take away the excitement of returning to 6VT premises – and Zoom fatigue was certainly beginning to set in among young people and staff.
As we looked forward to the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, staff worked incredibly hard - day and night - to set up a safe environment for outdoor youth work to start up. Hours of researching, shopping, gardening, decorating and implementing safety measures went into developing 6VT’s garden for the opening of our outdoor youth work provision.
Of course this came with its challenges – we had to ensure young people, staff and volunteers were safe at all times so thorough risk assessments and discussions with staff and young people were had before the gate could open.
We can proudly say that despite the cold, wind and rain the outdoor drop in has been a great success. Young people have ensured they keep to all safety measures, which has made our return all the smoother.
We continue to offer online support through the Cairn Service, which supports young victims and witnesses of crime, young parents support and weekly online catch up’s with young people.
This has certainly been a challenging time but with creativity, trust and respect, it has enabled us to dig deeper into our ‘tool kit’ and find positive ways to engage young people.
Be brave, flexible and willing for things not to work as expected has been 6VT’s philosophy throughout these challenging times. The team will take this way of working into the future. Despite youth work not being a priority in the easing of restrictions, we have seen first-hand that youth work really does change lives, both digitally and face-face!