Two months ago we made the very difficult decision to temporarily close our residential sites and community centres, but continue our support remotely to young people and their families where we could.
There might currently be a screen between our dedicated team of community workers and those we work with, but we’re committed to continue to support their wellbeing and mental health. The same care, kindness and help is still available for young people and their families – and needed more than ever during the continuing Covid-19 crisis and the inevitable problems it has, and will continue, to create.
Our Mission is to improve the life chances of children, young people and families by inspiring them to engage positively in their communities.
Coronavirus is having a profound impact on all our lives. For many this has been experienced more deeply because the lockdown is increasing the difficulties and pressure in lives which are already chaotic and complex. Supporting our most vulnerable young people, families and communities has never been more vital.
We continue to provide support through maintaining and building one to one relationships digitally, whilst creating new ways to deliver our individual and group-based programmes, and developing partnerships to prepare for a world beyond coronavirus.
For some families, spending extra time together is even more difficult because their home is cramped, overcrowded, and lacks life’s basics such as food because of financial pressures including unemployment.
School-age children may not have the space or digital access for home learning meaning they are falling behind. Relationships become strained between parents, between parents and children, and between siblings. Vulnerable families are in a constant state of stress, which over time may become toxic leading to trauma.
Increased domestic abuse is evident in the numbers of new referrals to our Strengthening Families and Families First programmes. Alongside our partners, we are doing what we can, but the need for support services cannot be underestimated with the lockdown creating the space for an increase in coercive control and violence within the home.
Conflict and aggression between young people and their parents/carers is also increasing with young people feeling frustrated and trapped. When family relationships are already strained, communication is poor and emotional resilience and wellbeing is compromised, this is again a recipe for escalation and increased risk.
Adapting to the current situation
Families have adapted well to our digital support. Interestingly, parents seem to find video calls easier than young people who prefer phone calls and texts! Both have told us the consistency of a named key worker relationship and regular contact has been very important to them.
At each contact the Key worker speaks to each member of the household to understand what’s happening and what support is most needed. We pride ourselves on being flexible and responsive and families again tell us they appreciate our person-centred, strengths-based approach and our commitment to doing what we say we will.
Key workers will undertake doorstep visits if needed and can drop off food parcels for families in need. We continue to work closely with partners as many families have multiagency support plans and known risks which need closely managing and communicating to ensure that children, young people and family members are safe and well.
Some of our team took a moment to talk about how we’re continuing our work during this challenging time. Watch Olivia, Fozia, Charlotte and Barry explain what we’re doing to support young people and families right now:
Variety of support still available
Although some of our community programmes have paused, many are still running including our Bradford-based counselling service and our South Cumbria Resilience Programme which offers ‘one to one’ work with young people.
We have adapted some, such as our Lancashire Be Savy and our ESF-funded ‘Get Real’ employability programme in Bradford, to provide a blend of one to one and group-based sessions digitally.
We are delighted to be developing our new Youth in Mind Peer Mentoring programme in Bradford which will be run in schools on their return, and to work with the EFL to create a digital offer for the delivery of the NCS summer programme.
Although our current priority is to care and support for our vulnerable young people and families, we know they will have an important role to play in their communities’ recovery after the lockdown eases.
We will be keen to harness their many strengths to rebuild our society and help shape a better world for all of us, of any age, to live in.
Still here to support wellbeing
Whilst our doors are still closed for now, and we’re socially-distanced from the young people and families who need us, they’re not alone. We’re still here for them, ready to help with their wellbeing, and very much open-hearted, not shut-down.