Safely does It!
After the Federation for Detached Youth Work received a few enquiries into workers safety, and risk assessments for detached youth workers returning to the streets. We decided to draft a working document as an example for those needing to approach managers about their safety and to help them write their Covid-19 protocols. So I have started to think about safety.
Today on 1st June 2020 I am watching news about infant and junior schools reopening and reception and year 6’s returning to their classrooms. Discussions around safety during Covid-19 are on every media platform from TV and newspapers to Google Twitter and Facebook
The changes schools are having to make are complicated and costly. Are we fortunate as youth workers to be able to go out there, onto the streets?
Lockdown was on us before we could organise how we did youth work from afar. It gave us little time to implement change to our working practices. No one was allowed out and we have had to be creative to keep supporting young people. Youth workers recognised early on, that the most vulnerable would be left with less, some unable to access the social media contact through zoom and hangout and others fighting over technology, hardware, and personal space at home. Some young people do not have stable Wi-Fi, stable family relationships or stable finance to have the choice to participate and then others just want to be out of the house and be free of these constraints.
Young people out and about, are not just at risk from exploitation situations pre covid and are now in situations where they could be criminalised by just being out and not keeping away from their mates. Reports to the police and councils regarding young people out in parks during lockdown and not social distancing have been high and penalty notices, and arrests on the increase in certain areas.
Some detached youth work projects have begun to carve out new ways of working; using zoom, visiting families, building relationships with the community, working in partnership with the police, helping to deliver food parcels enabling them to chat to young people. It has been essential to look at detached youth workers safety and discuss the government guidelines with management, community policing and the local authority and to build a new safety infrastructure.
The Federation for Detached Youth Work have had enquiries from the field; for help with risk assessments and with safer working practices, help communicating with managers and the need for non-management supervision in these trying times. Youth workers who are being asked to work outside a building for the first time, are seeking reassurance before going out and more understanding of the differences between building based and street work together with more knowledge of the Covid-19 guidelines relating to street work.
Since April we have set up webinars with partners and Fed and put videos and guidelines on our website for members to upskill. These have anticipated the concerns, listened to members questions, and encouraged youth workers to share experiences.
We have looked at risk assessments and how to renew or refresh them in line with Covid-19
We encourage you to check your working risk assessment and make sure it covers all factors. If you have not got one you can print/copy a form from the HSE website and think about hazards and how to minimise risks. Always date form and state when it will be reviewed.