It is completely understandable that many groups will be considering what to do about their clubs, meetings and events given the current context. Helpfully, we published an article yesterday with some guidance about policies and where to find information which can be read here: Coronavirus information and example policy.
Taking all of this into account, I wanted to give you my advice on how to manage the situation when working with young people:
- Follow national guidance but don’t take unnecessary risks!
As confusing as it may sometimes be, I would still advise people to follow the national guidance published by the Government and NHS. If you are concerned that your group shouldn’t open/run, perhaps the best thing would be to just hold off for a few weeks. I would suggest that every group should do a risk assessment specifically for this scenario and to ensure that best practice is being followed with hygiene and health and safety measures. Oxfordshire Youth members can download our Risk Assessment Policy template to help you do that.
- Have honest conversations, focusing on the “known-knowns”!
Young people know about the virus – they are just as plugged in as you are! They may have questions, have heard rumours, and may want to talk about it. As with anything else this is when it is so important to be honest and open in conversation. When you know the answer tell them; when you don’t know, tell them that as well – perhaps you can even find out the answer together! Don’t spread a rumour that you have heard without checking it out first. Be honest with your young people about the risk as well as the reality of the circumstances, and signpost them to more reliable sources of information, such as the NHS website.
It is important that you acknowledge their concerns. Some young people may be feeling really anxious about this, particularly if they have elderly or inform relatives and loved ones. Listen with respect and respond appropriately.
Do shut down discriminatory language immediately. The coronavirus is not an excuse for xenophobia or bad behaviour. Unfortunately some people think it is, and some young people may have experienced this themselves. Be sensitive to that in your interactions with them.
- Be the great role model that you are!
You have a responsibility to model the behaviour that you want them to emulate. This is now more important than ever! This means demonstrating good practice with personal hygiene and health and safety, taking appropriate measures to ensure they can be safe when with you (such as making tissues, and anti-bacterial soap available to them freely) and role modelling positive language and attitudes towards others.
The coronavirus will pass. See this as an opportunity to support young people, reinforcing the positive relationship they can have with you and making sure that they feel safe and informed. That can only be a good thing.