Maintaining contact with young people throughout the Covid19 pandemic is the basis of a report recently launched by the St John Bosco Youth Centre.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: A Youth Work Response report presents a comprehensive insight into the processes of ensuring that the Drimnagh based youth service, known locally at the Bosco, continued to provide the appropriate supports to local young people throughout the Covid19 pandemic.
The report’s genesis details the initial onset of the novel Coronavirus in Ireland on 29th February, the closing of all education facilities, communities centres and youth services on 12th March, and finally, the complete countrywide lockdown on 27th March. Also detailed is the impact the public health crises had on young people and the youth project and its service response.
The closure of youth services across the country required staff to work remotely, interacting with young people online. According to Brian Murphy, the centre manager, this remote youth work required some innovative application.
Nobody saw the pandemic coming; it all happened very fast. You can see from reading the report that our youth work staff had no time to prepare and were required to think on their feet. The rapid design of policies and procedures relating to the new practice of engaging young people online, the effective development of IT structures, and our staff’s commitment to adapt helped lay the foundation for the incredible youth work detailed within the report.Brian Murphy, Centre Manager, St John Bosco Youth Centre
From March – June 2020, the youth work team from the St John Bosco Youth Centre worked across numerous platforms, including Zoom, Whatsapp and several social media platforms, to engage young people in an array of activities and supports. Some of the initiatives detailed in the report include a seven days a week phone support line, quiz nights, bingo nights, art and photograph competitions, online group work and an anti-racism programme. Youth workers also provided a family outreach programme to assist essential needs, including medical, educational and other supports while also providing factual public health information.SJBYC Pandemic 2020 – A Youth Work Response
Michelle Moore, a youth worker within Drimnagh, believes that the programmes, activities, and regular contact with youth workers provided supports and coping mechanisms during a very stressful time for young people and their families.
“Our youth work team felt a real purpose to the work we were doing with young people; there was a lot of fear and anxiety, young people had their lives turned upside down, no school, no time with their friends and the fear of themselves or someone they love getting sick from Covid19. Thankfully we could link in, provide that space to interact, connect and share their fears.”Michelle Moore, Youth Worker, St John Bosco Youth Centre
Incredibly from the initial closure of the Drimnagh based youth service on the 12th of March, it would be the 19th of June before the centre’s youth workers would again engage in direct contact youth work within the community. The use of bicycles as a transport method to begin working directly with participants allowed youth workers to cover larger community areas while ensuring easier compliance with Covid19 related health and safety practices.
The Bosco youth work programme is financed through the UBU Your Place Your Space funding scheme, an initiative of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA). In early June, DCYA provided youth services with a roadmap for the paced return of direct youth work over the summer months, allowing for small group work gatherings outdoors.
The youth service’s planning had foretold the possibility that outdoor youth work might be possible during the summer months. In association with the St John Bosco Football Club, the youth work programme secured an outdoor location within the local Brickfields park. The Bosco youth service went on to facilitate several projects and activities throughout June, July and August. Detailed within the report for that particular summer period are several community arts projects, including a large public mural within Brickfields park and a large installation dedicated to frontline workers, launched by Lord Mayor Hazel Chu. Alongside these visual arts projects, the youth services facilitated a local running and healthy living initiative, an outreach programme for young men and a range of structured activity groups that used mediums including arts, photography and sport.
The Bosco youth workers continued to provide in-person youth work until the end of 2020, with several Halloween and Christmas projects outlined within the report, including another large community arts project. This mural project was installed within Brickfield park and developed as part of the Drimnagh Together initiative, created by the youth work staff to encourage and support young people’s community involvement.
With only two full-time youth workers and a project leader, the Bosco youth work programme is the least resourced youth service within the broader locality. Warren McNamara, who was employed as a youth worker within the Bosco just months before the onset of the pandemic, believes the Pandemic 2020 – A Youth Work Response ‘ shows the impact youth services can have.
When I sat down and read the report, I was blown away by the quantity and quality of what we achieved throughout the pandemic. We are a small team, the smallest around, and this report shows what’s possible with good planning, proper use of resources and sticking to the fundamental principles of youth work; it has to be a young person-centred approach. Hopefully, other services can make use of the report.Warren McNamara, Youth Worker, St John Bosco Youth Centre
While the publication provides detailed accounts of service provision, it also delves into the challenges encountered, particularly for a minority of young people and their families within the community who experienced severe difficulty resulting from the pandemic. Pre-existing social inequality left some local families vulnerable to the negative social and financial impact of the pandemic.
The Pandemic 2020: A Youth Work Response report is most certainly a worthwhile read for anyone interested in youth and community work or wanting to gain a greater understanding of the aims and objectives of community youth work.