The extra mile and more travelled by Scotland's youth workers

As part of Scotland's #YouthWorkCeilidh celebrations, YouthLink Scotland CEO Tim Frew thanks the sector for the incredible resilience and agility it has shown during the pandemic.

As we near the end of summer 2021, a year and half on from the beginning of COVID, and with restrictions easing substantially, mixed emotions are at play. We will naturally look back with much sadness on that has occurred in our own lives and in the lives of the young people we work with. Perhaps we have had to deal with family bereavements, illnesses and the loss of key life moments. As youth workers we recognise that young people have had to deal with all of this too and we can reflect on the damage done to their learning journey, employment prospects and the knock-on impact on their health and wellbeing emerging from a series of lockdowns.

At the same time with the easing of restrictions there is hope and expectation that things will improve. I’ve had the great privilege recently to visit projects across the country – either in person or virtually. It is striking how much youth work is valued by young people and many partner organisations. Youth work organisations have been creating opportunities for social connection amongst young people and in the wider community throughout this pandemic. The opportunity to enhance summer programmes locally with the support of the Scottish Government has been a welcome addition and something young people asked for. In the 3rd Lockdown Lowdown survey, young people identified the important role of youth work in supporting Scotland’s recovery “re-establishing a feeling of community or social connection, mental health support and engagement in routine through organised activity”

As we reflect back and look forward it’s important to mark and celebrate the amazing efforts of our youth workers up and down the country to make a difference in the lives of young people and communities. The youth work sector has really stepped up. We have continued to put young people first, to listen to what they are saying to us, and to make the most of the resources at our disposal.

Youth work organisations have led the way in repositioning their services to deliver food banks, supporting community hubs, promoting volunteering, providing online, outdoor and indoor learning opportunities and prioritising vulnerable children and young people throughout. We have been mindful throughout of the balance of risk between the spread of the virus and the education and health needs of children and young people who have been adversely affected by restrictions in many ways.

It’s now time to stop and celebrate all that we have achieved together through the #YouthWorkCeildih. Before you scratch your head and ask “what, a ceilidh with no dancing?” remember that the original meaning of a ceilidh is any social gathering of people where we can celebrate, tell stories and have fun. We have a unique opportunity to do that from 1st-3rd September, highlighting some fantastic life changing stories of success and harnessing the power of social media to bring some joy and good news. So pick a partner, take to the dance floor, have a blether and please join us as we celebrate youth work in what I hope will be the biggest virtual ceilidh Scotland has ever seen!

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