On Friday I tuned into a webinar hosted by the NYA providing information to organisations continuing or wanting to restart doing detached youth work.
This proved an informative space with professionals sharing knowledge and experiences so far and from it here are my five top things to consider:
1. Key Worker Status
Gaining key worker status from your local authority helps ensure that other organisations know what you are doing, know that you are there to support, protects you from misunderstandings concerning your reasons for being outside and ultimately makes allowing you to do your job a lot easier. If misidentified from other organisations and members of the public you can confidently overcome these confusions and identify yourself as a key worker.
2. Communication with the Police
Having a good relationship with the police in your local area during this time can help in many ways. Once again this will ensure that you are not misidentified as they will understand that you are a key worker and by communicating with them they can support you in identifying areas where young people may be congregating.
3. Clear Message
It is important to ensure that the message of your work is clear to other organisations you may be working with as well as the young people you are looking to support.
In the circumstance of lockdown, so as not to be viewed negatively, ensure it is known that as detached youth workers you are not encouraging young people to meet you but are looking to encourage those who are already out to be at home. You are there to explain to those young people why being at home at the moment is important, while recognising that there may be many complex reasons why they are not staying at home and supporting them to overcome these circumstances in the appropriate ways.
Due to the foreign situation we are all in it is important to recognise that you have a lot less time to get your message across than you normally would while doing detached youth work. This may mean that you have to find much more direct ways to communicate with young people. Ultimately it will be important to use the short amount of time you have to talk to them about the importance of staying at home and why that would be safer for them, referring them to online content and resources if they are looking for things to do and of course if there is a concern around a young person’s safety or wellbeing at home or while out then safeguarding and contacting the necessary organisations applies.
While being out and about it is important that you do what you can to keep and feel safe. It is encouraged that you follow your local guidance concerning wearing and using protective equipment if this available to you. At a minimum it has been suggested that you wear gloves and have some kind of hand sanitizer or hand wash available and potentially wipes on you too. Of course an individual feeling comfortable and safe to work with young people is the most important thing so protect yourself in ways that feel right to you.
As always it is important to remember that your relationships with young people will support you with your work and will guide the conversations you have and how you have these during lockdown.
In my mind the importance of detached youth work during this time is obvious as youth workers understand the complexities surrounding the reasons why young people may be choosing to spend their time outside; accompanied by the fact that choice may not even be playing a part in that reality. Youth workers are best placed as experts at forming trusting relationships with young people and can take effective approaches to communicating with them to encourage that they follow the guidance to ensure their safety and, where this isn’t possible, ensuring they get the correct support. However, there are other factors to consider, and ensuring the safety of everyone involved is paramount.
If you are currently doing detached youth work or are looking to start doing it again I would highly recommend checking out the recording of the webinar hosted by the NYA
For advice and support in continuing to connect with young people Contact Us or reach out to us on social media. We have also published some Resources to aid conversations with young people that can be used online or in homes.