Youth groups contribute to report on impact of Covid-19

By Mary Dennehy

A NUMBER of local youth groups contributed to a research report launched this week that highlights the impact of Covid-19 on youth services.

The report, A Review of the Youth Work Sector Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), highlights how ‘young people already most at risk became the most disconnected during the pandemic’.

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Youth groups from the area participated in the report

The report research included a survey of youth services, focus groups with young people, ‘check-in’ sessions with youth workers and interviews with youth-sector stakeholders. 

Local groups that contributed includes Curtain Call, Clondalkin Youth Service, Crosscare; the Girls Brigade Tallaght; Feachtas Óg-Ghluaiseacht na Gaeilge, Tallaght; and Bluebell Youth Project.

In addition, four young people from Curtain Call in Clondalkin participated in one of the focus groups.

While Dublin youth groups and young people were active in the research that informed the report, consultation also took place with youth-sector representatives nationwide.

According to research findings, the report highlights how the Covid-19 pandemic made it more difficult for youth services to engage with ‘at risk’ or marginalised young people.

Some 67 per cent of youth workers surveyed cited this as a ‘key limitation’ when faced with a ‘ move to an online model of working’.

Commenting this week, Mary Cunningham, CEO of NYCI, said: “The research shows clearly that young people who were already most at risk became the most disconnected during the pandemic.

“Young people already experiencing poverty, for example, became even more isolated.

“Covid-19 had a compounding effect, whereby online engagement was significantly hampered for young people already experiencing marginalisation in various ways.”

She added: “The pandemic exposed a whole range of inequalities and exacerbated vulnerabilities in the youth sector.

“While, undoubtedly, youth workers in Dublin – and throughout the country – showed their creativity and flexibility in numerous ways, it does not make the marginalisation experienced by young people any less challenging.

“The drop in engagement levels paints a stark picture and demonstrates just how important face-to-face youth work is, particularly for those in marginalised and vulnerable situations.”

According to Ms Cunningham, youth organisations now need to be ready to “change at a moment’s notice” and prepare to offer a blended approach of digital and face-to-face methods.

“In the coming months, funding and investment for the youth sector will be vital, as will technological innovation and ICT infrastructure, training for digital skills and on various digital platforms, and Covid-19 compliance”, she said.

In the report, the Girls Brigade in Tallaght is highlighted as a ‘good practice’ example of how the youth work sector has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report outlines how members of the Girls Brigade Tallaght engaged in a Covid Hearts project where they sent handmade knitted or crocheted hearts to patients at Tallaght University Hospital.

Read the full report at www.youth.ie.

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