As the Caring for Communities and People (CCP) leadership team gathered to prepare for the operational challenges imposed by COVID-19 and lockdown, our focus was the wellbeing of 150 homeless young people in our care and the workforce who would be their COVID-19 rock.
Our focus was the wellbeing of 150 homeless young people in our care and the workforce who would be their COVID-19 rock
Young people’s wellbeing has been central to our response and to our achievements and successes throughout the pandemic, even more so through the second lockdown. Mitigating the wider impact of the restrictions on young people has been key. We are careful to consider each individual and their own unique set of circumstances, and continuously assess the impact of the restrictions on their wellbeing together with their physical, mental and financial health and digital inclusion.
Social contact is incredibly powerful for the young people living in supported accommodation
Social contact is incredibly powerful for the young people living in supported accommodation. Many have faced years of neglect, have become estranged from wider family networks, and struggle with the day-to-day rigours of their young lives. Our support staff, and other young people, therefore, play a vital role in their overall mental health and wellbeing. The enduring nature of the pandemic has been a real test to many, affecting all aspects of their lives including learning, work, and their wider social networks. Many other support services closed, which further restricted opportunities for social engagement.
Anticipating the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on the young people living in supported accommodation, we spent significant time and energy using a lens of Psychologically Informed Environments to enhance the physical spaces where our young people live. Upgrading TVs, creating additional safe spaces, re-decorating and refurbishing communal areas into even more homely, inviting, and comforting areas where young people would inevitably now spend more time.
We focused on support staff spending more quality time with young people, encouraging them out of their rooms to ensure no-one felt any more socially isolated because of the restrictions. An enhanced set of activities also engendered a feeling of togetherness, with themed days and nights helping young people away from boredom and potential isolation. Great food became a staple offer, further enhancing their emotional wellbeing.
At the beginning of the pandemic many of the young people told us they were afraid of feeling lonely and isolated. But, through the measures implemented, friendships have blossomed. Many of the young people have benefitted significantly from more face to face contact with each other and have actively avoided digital platforms for social contact.
Safe spaces have also featured highly in their feedback, where young people have ‘hung out’ much more frequently. We have undertaken more targeted communication with an emphasis on individual needs and using trauma informed approaches in our interactions.
What has been so inspirational is how positive and resilient the young people and support workers have been. For us, laughter, face to face contact and friendship has been the real winner arising from the restrictions placed upon young people during COVID-19.
Cordell Ray CEO, Caring for Communities and People