Posted: Tue 10th Nov 2020

Youth work services in Flintshire set to provide more online support in wake of coronavirus pandemic

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Youth work services in Flintshire are set to provide more online support for youngsters in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Youth clubs across the county were forced to close their doors when lockdown measures were introduced in March, with outreach services also restricted.

Since then, the Flintshire Integrated Youth Provision (FIYP) has adapted to social distancing requirements by replacing face-to-face activities with digital sessions.

The service has already developed a number of new online youth clubs, including one for Welsh language speakers and another to support childrens’ emotional wellbeing.

A Flintshire Council officer said it would mark the start of a long-term shift towards providing more online assistance.

The local authority’s senior manager for integrated youth provision Ann Sharman Roberts said it was hoped young people would feel more comfortable raising personal issues via digital platforms.

Speaking at a virtual meeting held last week, she said: “We will embed lessons learned from the pandemic and will sustain and develop remote engagement with young people.

“This includes developing new online youth clubs, which we’ve got functioning already.

“There are diverse cohorts of young people including our Welsh language cohort, we have young carer workshops and clusters of youth clubs will have their own online youth club as well.

“It’s not just about attending a club two nights, there will be that back up for such provision as sexual health, maybe debt advice or any problem that they have that they may not want to take to a youth club because it’s a fun place.”

The council currently runs 13 youth clubs throughout the county, despite many authorities no longer providing such services.

A report to its education, youth and culture scrutiny committee states traditional youth service activities in Wales have reduced since 2010 as children have shown a growing preference for interacting online.

It is now planning to transfer the management of eight youth club buildings to schools or local communities to deliver annual savings of £98,600, as well as cutting back of staffing costs.

The authority stressed it would keep youth clubs running in the majority of communities, but with an increased focus on targeted support for vulnerable children and those who don’t engage with school work.

Flintshire’s chief executive Colin Everett said: “We were quite nervous about putting this report up because we know the youth service is very valued by you all and is quite emotive.

“I remember when I first started working in Flintshire, when we were looking at budget pressures the youth service and music service were almost untouchable because you care for them.

“Our nervousness was that because we’re moving the model along, you might misread it or think we’re devaluing it in some way.

“What we’re actually do is valuing the service but moving it on to something more progressive.”

He added: “We’ve got a brilliant service now but we’re rather trapped in buildings and tradition.

“This is about us wanting to do even more and be better with this service rather than trying to diminish its value.”

Committee members backed the launch of a consultation on the changes to the youth service which will run until the end of January 2021.

A final plan will then be produced in April reflecting the feedback received.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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