I’m sure it doesn’t come as a big surprise that COVID-19 and the lockdown has been a bit of a challenge and a struggle for a lot young people that we support on the Young Voices Project. Don’t get me wrong, the first few weeks off school may have been a novelty for some – until it became too much being, stuck inside away from friends and socialising every day.
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 and the lockdown have brought a lot of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and a lack of routine. This has proved to have impacted greatly on a lot of young people’s emotional wellbeing.
Our Young Voices Project is a 6-8 week programme where we work face-to-face with young people who have experienced and/or been exposed to domestic abuse. Due to the government’s lockdown restrictions, face-to-face sessions were put on hold. This has been challenging as we had to find new ways to work with young people we support.
The beginning of lockdown
We needed to be creative about how to engage young people. At the beginning of lockdown, we began with weekly phone calls to check in and see how the young person was doing. A lot of mums were concerned about the amount of school work that was being sent home which was an added pressure to home school and ensure they were keeping on top of all the set work. It also added stress to the young person when they were unable to complete the work in time – or they genuinely didn’t understand what to do.
Free school meal vouchers were an issue for a number of families, vouchers often didn’t get sent out and one family was told they were not eligible even though they were. This was something that we were able to support with and get sorted for the families who were struggling and really relied on these vouchers and free school meals.
Juno Women’s Aid received some truly gorgeous donations including pamper packages, which I was able to drop to the doorstep of some of the young people that I was supporting as a little ‘pick me up.’ The young people were so grateful for each of the donations and enjoyed using them.
A ‘less restrictive’ lockdown
As lockdown began to get less restrictive and government guidelines were easing slightly, we were able to get more creative when supporting young people. Where it was suitable, appropriate, and most importantly safe for the young person, we have been able to meet at the park where we could still keep within the government guidelines of social distance and meeting within an open air space. This was great as it gave us an opportunity to support the young person face-to-face and finish off our session on a positive, which sometimes was as simple as kicking a ball around.
As some schools have been open throughout lockdown for children of key workers and those who are vulnerable, they have been able to accommodate us and have allowed us to use the school playground when it has not been safe to meet a young person anywhere else. School is often a young person’s safe place so it was really helpful that schools were able to support the young person by allowing them have a safe space for our sessions.
As we know, there has been an increase in domestic violence and abuse throughout lockdown. Young people we support have experienced, or have been exposed to, domestic abuse and lockdown has, for many, made this more difficult for families who already felt trapped. A lot of young people we support have opened up about having mixed feelings and opinions about going back to school in September. This is causing a lot of anxiety for some whereas others cannot wait to go back as school is their safe space to escape life at home.
Back to school
With children and young people going back to school, they will be able to speak with friends openly. They will also have the opportunity to disclose to teachers and other professionals who they trust. The Young Voices project is accepting referrals and meeting face-to-face with children and young people in schools or other venues that are deemed safe for the individual. The referral process for professionals can be accessed here and after completing the form, the referral will be picked up as soon as possible. Alternatively, our Helpline is available to call on 0800 800 0340 where the team can offer advice and information on keeping safe and provide emotional support to women and children.