Community

Doors reopen at Devon’s youth centres

a young person sitting alone on a bench

Posted on: 23 April 2021

Young people have expressed delight at having the doors of their youth centres open once again this week.

Coronavirus meant that youth centres closed last year, as youth clubs moved their services online.

SPACE, which runs Devon’s youth services on behalf of Devon County Council, has found many opportunities in past twelve months to provide support differently, online. And to much success.

Now, as the doors open once again at their youth centres in Barnstaple, Bideford, Okehampton, Tiverton, Exmouth, Exeter, Newton Abbot and Totnes, young people are returning.

“It’s been good to be back,” said one young person who attends the centre in Barnstaple. “The youth centre was a place that me and my friends could chill and speak about stuff.”

“I just enjoy having it open again, socialising with people again,” said another, at the same centre.

It’s a cautious re-opening though, while restrictions remain in place to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Rather than the longer pre-coronavirus evening sessions, groups now are no larger than 15 young people, and SPACE are holding two or three shorter sessions each evening.

But while face-to-face sessions are re-starting, SPACE is continuing to develop their online offer, with the launch of a new website this week, www.spaceyouthservices.org

One of the new developments is a Live Chat function for young people to reach youth workers.

“We’ve developed a range of online services since March 2020, which have really taken off,” says Jen Whitley, Head of Innovation at SPACE.

“And it’s important that we maintain those connections, not just now because of restrictions, but hopefully in future.”

One of the major successes from SPACE this last year has been the launch of their online youth service, over Discord – an online platform, which SPACE use to continue their youth service offer.  It currently boasts over a hundred regular young users.

The platform allows young people to meet remotely, in a safe online environment, and SPACE run sessions and clubs over it, such has ‘how to build a robot’, Minecraft night, music sessions and cook-alongs.

But while their online presence has taken off, the youth service has also maintained its physical presence during coronavirus, engaging with young people on the streets to improve social connectedness and keep young people safe.

“As restrictions ease further and young people get together outdoors more, our outreach into local communities is really important,” says Jen.

“Our teams are there to engage with young people where they are, provide fun activities and provide a trusted adult to talk to if needed.

“We’re really excited with where we are at the moment. We’ve built the service well over the last year, and young people have found it invaluable during these really difficult times. We’ve got great ideas for how to expand on that, to increase access to our services and to reach more young people.

“And at the same time, we’re now able to gently start opening up for face-to-face sessions again. But doing so really carefully, and following all the COVID rules to ensure that our sessions and venues are COVID-safe.

“It’s been a challenging and rewarding 12 months. Now we’re looking ahead, and at supporting more young people.”

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