This week we held the Youth Scotland AGM. Like others we held it digitally in order to comply with the Coronavirus advice. During my opening remarks I recognised that this has been a tough time for everyone, but especially our young folk. I have been impressed by the response of our young people in Scotland recently (to be fair I have always been impressed with our young folk) as we saw how they handled a return to formal education which has gone well. Our young folk should be congratulated on how well they have managed this during such uncertain times.
I have also been impressed by the efforts of local youth workers and volunteers to main contact with young people during lockdown and periods of restriction, digitally and more recently face to face. Their commitment to getting youth work open again, safely, has been impressive.
Youth Scotland, our local Area Associations and other youth work partners such as YouthLink Scotland have worked hard to support community based youth work and the delivery of youth work programmes, including our children and young people’s award programmes. The move to online training and support for local youth group leaders was made quickly and the team at Youth Scotland have become more and more creative in their delivery. The uptake and response has been quite remarkable.
But back to Covid for a minute. It features briefly in the Youth Scotland Impact Report of 2019/2020 as the start of lockdown was at the end of that year. In our report we reflect briefly on what lies ahead and where our efforts should lie.
We know that youth work helps keep young people safe and is good for their wellbeing. Youth work plays a key role in helping young people cope whilst living with Covid and the challenges it presents. Young people may not always listen to me as a Director of Public Health, but they will listen to their youth worker.
The greatest risk to young people just now is to their mental health. Youth work provides a space where young people can develop friendships and get support from a trusted adult – these make a huge difference to young people. But youth work is also about learning and these informal education opportunities have a significant impact on young people and their futures, for some young people youth work will have a bigger impact on their lives than formal education, but of course we need both.
I am pleased that we are committed in Scotland to keeping our schools open wherever possible. This is the right decision. I think we need to think about our youth work provision and try to maintain our face to face youth work wherever possible too if we are to truly support young people with the challenges ahead.
- Dona Milne.