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Consultations on changes during Covid crisis concludes more digital investment needed

Our youth engagement department Youth Voice recently undertook some consultations with young residents across our supported accommodation schemes, reviewing the service changes we have had to make during this ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

This new situation and reduced social contact has meant we have had to adapt our working practices significantly and find new ways of working and engaging with young people. Therefore these consultations sought to look at what young people would like to keep in terms of what has changed and what, once the pandemic has passed, we would leave behind. The outcomes of these consultations will help us plan for the future and identify what extra resources or support may be needed.

The project entitled ‘Room to Talk’ was carried out by our Youth Engagement Manager with 66 young people from across our supported accommodation schemes.

The sessions looked at what has changed in recent months as face-to-face support sessions, events, meetings and group training have no longer been possible and staff have had to find alternative and virtual ways to support and engage young people individually or in groups including via facebook messenger, texting, telephone calls, video chats, online learning and occasionally social-distanced gatherings.

Findings and recommendations

Reporting back on the consultations Youth Voice found that “100% of young people valued how St Basils had provided safe, caring and welcoming environments throughout such uncertain times and welcomed some new ways of working and flexibility.”

However the consultations also overwhelmingly emphasised young people’s feeling that the world has overnight shifted to such an emphasis on digital technology, that is it no longer just a desire to have those skills and technologies, it is now a necessity.

This is a real challenge for our young people as the video technology needed to be able to join-in is still relatively expensive, and changes and updates at a fast rate.

The young people also made some other recommendations, including;

  • Access for all to smart technology including smart phones, tablets and laptops.
  • Faster wifi
  • Office furniture for working from home
  • A St Basils App to access everything St Basils including support and opportunities
  • More opportunities for online learning and training
  • More mental health & wellbeing support, sport for mindfulness and at distance yoga
  • More resident activities and meet-ups (including virtual if needed)

However despite sometimes preferring the flexibility that conversations via digital means can bring, respondents still felt it important that young residents have a choice and can choose what method they would prefer to interact with staff and their peers, be it digital, face to face or a combination.

It was raised by the young people that sometimes nothing can replace honest and supportive face-to-face conversations and young people will still need to know how to access face-to-face talking or practical support when they feel low, lost or frightened.

Future plans and investment

Some of the recommendations St Basils can help with immediately and some will require much more thought and investment, particularly with regards to how we can help young people feel digitally included not just now but into the future as well.

Much of what we have been able to facilitate currently for young people in terms of ensuring they were digitally connected has been thanks to our generous supporters; donations of laptops and phones and also thanks to a number of Trusts providing Covid-specific support to help our current young residents during this pandemic situation.

Our challenge now is to look at how we can fund larger and longer term investment to ensure that each young person will have the resources and skills to ensure they can be digitally connected and included not just while they are with St Basils but also into the future. We need to work out what we can do and what we can give young people to ensure that is the case. This is especially pressing for our young residents who don’t have access to ‘the bank of mum and dad’. We will need further support to bring this about for our current and future young residents.

CORONAVIRUS

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