Coronavirus: Advice for youth work groups

Joe Lepper
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Leading youth organisations have come together to offer guidance to youth workers on supporting young people and staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Non-essential meetings can be held online, advice suggests
Non-essential meetings can be held online, advice suggests

The National Youth Agency and UK Youth have published three guides offering advice to youth services managers as well as frontline youth workers.

These cover issues such as moving youth activities online, home working for youth workers and ensuring vulnerable young people are protected.

In addition, a website from the two groups compiling advice and resources for the youth work sector surrounding the coronavirus outbreak is due to go online today.

Some of the key advice from the guides:

Guidance on closures

This guide from the National Youth Agency’s youth work expert group advises that any “non-essential group meetings” are cancelled and delivered digitally. Suggested online platforms include using Facebook, Google Hangouts or a WhatsApp group call.

Activities such as drop-in sessions at youth clubs should also end.

With much of youth work moving online, the guide urges youth services to ensure they have a plan in place to stay in contact with young people and colleagues through telephone and social media. This includes having contact information to hand for additional support that young people may need.

But the guide stresses that targeted "acute" youth work, such as those focusing on youth violence, child exploitation, domestic abuse and health, “is essential and should continue”. Youth workers carrying out this work should ensure that any group sizes are small, preferably with only one or two young people. Social distancing guidance from Public Health England also needs to be adhered to, this includes avoiding any physical contact such as “fist bumps, handshakes and touching”.

Support for Youth Workers

The main themes of this guide for youth workers is to keep calm, stay connected and be safe.

This reiterates the importance of using social media and digital technology, especially with colleagues, through platforms including work management tool Slack and video conferencing services such as Zoom. Microsoft Teams is another that is recommended for youth workers.

Following latest health advice from Public Health England is vital. This guide also urges youth workers to ensure that “information being shared is fact-checked and doesn’t perpetuate panic-mongering or myths”.

There is also advice on home working for youth workers, who are well and working, although self-isolating. This includes sticking to a routine and plan for each day. “Keep ‘home’ and ‘work’ as separate as possible – routines help with this,” states the guide.

Dealing with a crisis and managing risks is another focus. This includes identifying the most vulnerable young people and ensuring “there is a support plan in place for them that includes connectivity with a trusted adult”.

Recommended is ensuring vulnerable young people are able to access information from the charity The Mix, which offers a range of digital support and guidance to young people.

Support for Young People

Young people being bullied, or even assaulted because of their ethnicity and myths around the spread of coronavirus, are in need of particular support, says this guide. Youth workers are able to act as a witness in any police action, if the young person wants to report any abuse.

Advising young people on education issues is also key. Youth workers are recommended to keep on top of advice coming from schools, exam boards and the Department for Education.

Another likely top concern among young people is around training, work and financial uncertainty.

Advising young people how to protect their physical and mental health is also important.

“While you might have to keep your distance from other people you can still go outside and keep a physical distance from others,” the guide urges youth workers to convey to young people.

“Go for a walk, run or cycle and explore a local park – phone a friend or listen to a podcast as you wander. Exercise, meditate, and keep to a daily routine as much as you can.”

And while social media and news stories can be a vital way of keeping connected and helping young people’s mental health, they can also increase anxiety levels.

“If the 24-hour news is making you anxious, think about only reading a few headlines a day and limiting how much you see,” adds the guide.

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