The past few months here at Barca-Leeds, much like other organisations, have been unprecedented to say the least! New terms such as social distancing, zoom calls and lockdown have meant that our Children, Young People and Families services have had to adapt and innovate, in order to best meet the needs of the people we serve.
One of the most active and immediate ways we have been able to reach our young people and families has been online. Recognising the need to support as many people as possible, in such an unprecedented time, we have been using new and existing digital tools to ensure we deliver the best possible service. Programs such as Zoom and WhatsApp have enabled our Youth Work team to host online drop ins with our support workers and Zoom held youth groups, which have provided young people with an opportunity to talk and discuss how recent events have impacted them. This innovative method, planned and delivered in the first few days of lockdown, was even nationally recognised in The Guardian!
Video calling has also allowed our Family, Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) team to still plan meetings and court hearings remotely and support sessions have been conducted over Zoom and Skype.
The digital divide faced by many young people and families, not just here in Leeds but across the whole country, has also not gone unnoticed in our work at Barca-Leeds. Supporting access to smart phones and tablets has been a key priority for many of our workers, allowing more of the people we support to go ‘virtual’.
Sometimes though it is not always possible to just use online services to help the young people and families we support. Our Stronger Families team for example have prepared and distributed activity packs and resources to assist young people who have not been at school during the past few months. Flexibility has been key to ensuring we can provide the best services possible and this was typified when one of our Stronger Families’ keyworker’s supported a parent who was struggling to access their child’s school website, by printing off worksheets and delivering them safely to their house.
As with the digital divide, we here at Barca-Leeds are also acutely aware of the financial difficulties a number of our families have faced over the past few months. With businesses temporarily closed and some families facing uncertainty over unemployment and furlough, the demand for support in food and other essential items has risen. Across our whole Children, Young People and Families service, our keyworkers have provided food provisions and vouchers to families, as well as supplying key items such as face masks, cleaning equipment and hand sanitizer.
As lockdown restrictions eased, our Children, Young People and Families services were able to plan socially distanced home visits and outdoor activities. Socially distanced home visits have allowed our keyworkers to maintain a similar level of support pre-COVID-19 restrictions but in a safe and secure manner. This meant we were able to meet up with young people and families, reducing isolation and spotting any potential concerns that could have been hidden over phone calls.
Over the last 6 weeks we have now been able to resume some outdoor street based activities, including family picnics and walks. One of our most successful socially distanced activities has been our doorstep dance sessions, a collaborative effort with DAZL. Held on doorsteps and on streets across West Leeds, we have so far had over 100 young people take part in our street based activities. These sessions have continued and expanded via our Healthy Holidays offer, with funding and support generously provided by Leeds Community Foundation and Child Friendly Leeds.
Through our Healthy Holidays sessions, we have also strengthened the cross partnership work we love to do here at Barca-Leeds. In conjunction with DAZL, Better Together, and Bramley Baths, we are providing healthy recipes, dance sessions and exercise – all socially distanced, across a number of streets in Bramley.
Moving forward then, it’s safe to say things have been not quite as usual over the last few months. Whilst there are certainly things we don’t want to keep, lockdown and social distancing has strengthened our desire to keep providing the best services we can, and to keep adapting and innovating where necessary. In the meantime, we still have number of activities going on throughout the rest of August, including;
- The Great YIP Bake Off Closing Date: Friday 28th August 2020
Helen Hart, Managing Director of Barca-Leeds.