Joe Clay is co-ordinator of our UK projects in Manchester and Yorkshire and knows just how hard the last year has been for the young people we support. Watch this interview to hear him explain the issues faced by vulnerable young people and how the pandemic has made already difficult situations almost unbearable.
As we endure another lockdown, we know many of the issues that they faced first time round will return – a lot of the young people we work with struggled with the social isolation and missed the support of friends and people from outside of their homes – homes that are often the last places they want to be.
Others found refuge in the restrictions that forced them away from bullies, gangs and problems, and many had only just settled back into a school routine after being out of education since March. Now there is confusion and uncertainty as different class or year groups are sent home, and the challenge of being told to isolate is becoming a regular situation. Many are fed up of ever-changing rules and worried about their futures with schooling and exams all hanging in the balance.
Our teams have seen an increase in the severity of new cases – from suicide attempts to assaults and more than any other problem, young people are reporting issues surrounding their mental health. Not only that families are at breaking point, months of restrictions, confusion trying to enforce new rules has left parents turning to our project workers for support more often than ever.
As public transport recommences, unfortunately so have county lines gangs and drug traffickers that often exploit young people to work for them. We continue to take referrals from British Transport Police who find children at risk across the rail network and now ‘meet’ with many young people virtually. However, our project workers have been happy to be back seeing their cases face to face, ensuring everyone is socially distanced and wearing PPE where necessary.
With colder weather and darker nights, young people are more at risk than ever but working with BTP we’re still looking out for them and will continue to support them now and as restrictions change and the next set of challenges present themselves.
Whatever it takes, and however we need to adapt to new approaches, we have the same commitment and will do whatever it takes to make to safeguard and support the young people across the UK who need us now and as we recover from coronavirus.
The demand on our services is already increasing as children and families face additional pressures and burdens. Our project teams will always keep doing whatever they can but as a charity we are already facing the prospect of operating with a reduced income.
Your continued support at the moment is not only vitally important it is also hugely appreciated.