… an independent charity that’s here for Aylesbury Vale’s disadvantaged 13-25-year-olds when they need us most.
Following government advice, Youth Concern closed its drop-in centre in Aylesbury on 17th March. Pre-lock-down, 50 young people on average came to our centre on Whitehill Lane every day. This was to play table tennis or pool, record music, or just relax. Trust was built with our youth workers and counsellors. In time, many of them then sought advice on a variety of issues from CV writing and job applications, to drugs and alcohol and sexual health, to accommodation and mental health.
Pre-lockdown many of our visitors already felt isolated and excluded. Many were not at school and had no Pupil Referral Unit. Those beyond school age were often out of work or working on zero-hour contracts. We were concerned that an imposed break would be unsettling and may cause them to relapse.
How did COVID affect Youth Concern?
Working from home, a skeleton staff launched a triage system. Young people called the usual number to be put through to the most appropriate member of staff. We introduced a mobile number for WhatsApp and text message requests for support and increased our profile on social media. Many of our young people are now direct messaging us. We’ve created a suite of videos for our YouTube channel, that give easily digestible 2-minute synopses of our services. We have also launched an online chat service that’s proving very popular. Now, with the full team back from furlough, Youth Concern’s youth workers are meeting young people face to face at our drop-in centre. This is for pre-booked, 1:1, socially distanced terms. Both face to face and virtually, we’re working with young people struggling with emotional and mental health, food parcels, signposting and advocacy, accommodation, music sessions.
Aims for the near future
We’re developing an online programme of support. Working with partner organisations we are identifying suitable content and appropriate platforms to replicate the ‘drop-in’ nature of our pre-COVID work. These include live and recorded streams on nutrition, fitness, mental health, assertiveness – shortly we’ll be surveying Aylesbury’s young people once again to ask what they’d like, encouraging them to make suggestions.
In the meantime, Youth Concern remains here for Aylesbury Vale’s disadvantaged 13-25-year-olds when they need us most.