Despite the difficult times we are all experiencing, Bridges Project staff have discovered positive elements of working with young people remotely.
All staff members in the youth charity have now been working from home for more than a month and have continued to support vulnerable and disadvantaged young people with various issues remotely. This has brought about some unexpected outcomes.
Transitions Development Worker Lynne Anderson has noticed that she is able to use her time more wisely by phoning her clients instead of driving up to an hour each way to visit clients at their homes.
“We can use this situation to learn how things work differently. There are opportunities to continue doing some of the activities we are doing remotely when we return to normal,” said Lynne.
She is one of several Bridges Project staff members who have had to change the way they support young people over the past weeks. Regular face-to-face sessions and group activities have been replaced with phone calls, text messages, video calls and digital challenges.
The type of support nevertheless focuses on many of the same issues. Staff still support young people with filling out job and college applications and provide them with emotional support and tutoring. The response from the young people during the crisis has also generally been very positive, with staff members reporting engagement levels of up to 75% from their clients.
Transitions Service Coordinator Natasha McInninie said: “I am surprised by how resilient young people are. I thought we would lose a lot of young people through this situation. However, it has actually made them engage more.”
Acting Chief Executive Emma Scarcliffe is also very pleased by how both Bridges Project staff and the young people they work with have responded to the current crisis.
“Bridges Project has adapted quickly to the unexpected situation around COVID-19. Engagement continues to be extremely high and the commitment and dedication from staff to change their working practices so quickly to suit each individual young person has been a complete triumph. We’re all very proud of the way young people have adapted and how resilient they are,” said Emma.
There are nevertheless also issues which have become magnified during the lockdown for the young people Bridges Project is working with. For instance, people who have difficult relationships with their family members struggle with being ‘locked up’ together over such a long period. Others are affected by less income and need help with accessing food parcels, Universal Credit and other types of financial support.
Many young people also need support to deal with the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on their mental health. This is particularly the case for those who were already struggling with social anxiety or social isolation prior to the lockdown.
Lynne Anderson said: “In the beginning, the young people thought it was fantastic. Now the reality of the lockdown is settling in and it is starting to become challenging.”
This trend has also been observed by Personal Development Worker Chris Nicol.
“The young people were dealing with it well during the first few weeks but have seen a downturn in their mood over the last two weeks. This is due to a combination of boredom and too much time to think but also not seeing their friends. They have realised how important those social anchors really are,” said Chris.
He said it is important to keep young people’s motivation and confidence up during these challenging times.
“I remind them that they need to focus on the fact that this will last for a relatively short period of their lives and things will go back to normal.”