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#WeLove - How Includem has engaged and supported young people during the pandemic

It won’t be of any surprise to Staf members to read that the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated almost wholesale change in how we operate at Includem. This has been the case for almost everyone, third sector and beyond.

As an organisation delivering face-to-face support to children, young people and families across Scotland, lockdown presented huge logistical challenges for us. Yet, for every challenge presented, creativity and innovation abounded.

Our frontline service staff are always thinking of creative and interesting ways to engage and support young people, and they have outdone themselves these past few months. From virtual cookery sessions and remote make-up master classes, to online quizzes and monthly activity booklets, Includem staff went out of their way to make sure that young people were supported and engaged throughout lockdown. Julia from our Aberdeen Team even wrote a fantastic blog post sharing handy tips and insights into how she adapted her practice to engage young people over the phone. Birthday presents, pamper packages, treats and cards have also been common, because for us it’s not just been about keeping young people busy, but reminding them during this period of isolation that they are loved and that we care.

Amongst all the change we have tried to focus on continuity, not least in our effort to ensure the voices and experiences of young people are heard by those who influence policy affecting their lives. Our ‘Staying Connected’ report heard from over 150 young people and families to understand the extent to which digital exclusion was affecting their ability to complete school work, access online services and overcome social isolation during lockdown. We found that 1 in 5 families didn’t have the digital equipment they needed, a third were worried about managing ongoing and future costs, and 16% did not have regular access to wifi. We have presented these findings to Scottish Government. We also spoke with young people with experience of the criminal justice system, using their lived experience to inform our response to the Scottish Sentencing Council’s consultation on guidelines for sentencing of young people.

And we continue to campaign against entrenched poverty in this country. Since the beginning of lockdown we have used over £57,000 of our Young Person’s Fund to support young people and families, providing essential financial and material support. We were also grateful recipients of the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund, which allowed us to almost double that amount. This has included everything from basics such as food parcels and mobile phones, to things that might help ease the strain on families during lockdown, such as board games, trampolines, and arts and crafts.

Yet what has been painfully apparent, is that for many of these families, poverty was a fact of life for them long before COVID came along. Now, they have been pushed to the absolute edge crisis. These are the people whose voices were already not being heard; we worry they are now at risk of having their voices lost entirely.

We desperately need real and lasting changes to finally eradicate Scotland’s entrenched poverty, and Includem will keep doing everything we can to support children, young people and families because #WeLove.

This blog was originally written as part of Staf's #WeLove campaign - an online campaign highlighting and sharing best practice of Staf members in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Find out more about the campaign.

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