Community

Youth Service initiative gives young people the means to stay connected

a young person sitting alone on a bench

Posted on: 19 May 2020

As family incomes are hit – earners may have been furloughed or lost their jobs – many are finding it difficult financially to make ends meet.

One of the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak has been the reliance on technology to remotely access services and support.

Services that were almost always delivered face-to-face have needed to rapidly adopt technology, such as social media or apps, to stay in contact with people they support.

But for families that do not have access to that technology, or the cash to pay for it, they’re left at a major disadvantage. Some are therefore not accessing support when they need it.

Devon County Council’s youth service, which is run by SPACE, is used to working flexibly with young people, and normally through a combination of open access and targeted work in communities and with individuals, they support a lot of young people in Devon.

They’re still supporting a lot of young people, but since lockdown they’re using technology to help them reach and stay in contact with the young people they support.

But because some young people do not have the technology, or the money to afford the ‘phone bills, SPACE has been equipping them with the means to stay in contact with them and to access their support.

That might be to top up a young person’s phone credit or to increase their phone data use. It might be to pay for a young person headphones or adaptor to connect phones with headphones.

It might even be to give a young person a phone capable of connecting online, with video chat; or a laptop or tablet that the young person can also use with their school or college work.

Devon County Councillors have given SPACE nearly £10,000 to buy the technology and the means to support young people.

SPACE is also raising additional money via local giving. With the County Council funding and other offline donations, they’ve so far raised around £13,000.

Dan Barton, Project Lead for SPACE, said:

“When lockdown came in quickly, we immediately had to change the way we usually deliver our services. Our youth centres, which are the backbone to our service, have temporarily closed their doors, but our support to young people has continued through the use of technology, including video calls, call backs and virtual youth clubs.

“The services are being well received, but some vulnerable young people don’t have a phone or laptop they can use, or they’ve got patchy or limited data that they can’t use the digital platforms in the same way as their peers.

“So we set up a fundraising campaign to help them out, by paying to top up their credit, or providing them with the tech that will help them access support in these challenging times.

“We are very grateful to the people, including the County Councillors, who have donated to the campaign. They have made it possible for us to help young people, who might otherwise have slipped through the net, to not only stay on our radar, but to also complete their school work and attend counselling sessions.”

Photo of Councillor Roger Croad

Councillor Roger Croad

Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the youth service, said:

“A lot of our County Councillors are supporting this initiative, and have given funding to help SPACE.

“In today’s world, we kind of expect young people to have the technology to stay in touch, and although that’s largely true to an extent, it’s not available to every young person.

“It’s often those same young people who also need special attention, and who benefit most from having professional support from our youth service team.”

If you would like to donate money to support this initiative, visit SPACE’s local giving page. 

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