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Flexible approach and partnership working vital to support at-risk children through COVID-19 pandemic, says Youth Endowment Fund guidance

As England grapples with the impact of a second lockdown, the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) have published clear, practical advice for organisations working with children at risk of involvement in violence. Through all of the recommendations, the core principles of flexibility and partnership working are shown to be vital to build strong, positive relationships at a time of social distancing.

Launched today, the guidance is the first Insights Brief to come from YEF’s £6.5m COVID-19 Learning Project. Developed by Dartington Service Design Lab, in partnership with the Centre for Youth ImpactResearch in Practice and University of Plymouth, it draws on a rapid review of evidence as well as the experience more than 100 YEF grantees. Their advice includes:

  • Use the right tools: Online and remote engagement, detached and street-based youth work, outdoor activities, and basic needs provision are all useful, but each works best for different young people in different situations.
  • Be flexible: Use a range of different methods, listen to what young people say and adapt your activities to get engagement right.
  • Don’t do it alone: Partnering with families, schools, community organisations and statutory services can support successful engagement.
  • Use existing relationships: Build trust through connections that already exist, rather than trying to create new ones.

At the heart of every recommendation is a key principle – flexibility. And this is as true for funders as much as it is for people delivering services. The report recommends that bodies commissioning youth services make sure that funding can be quickly adapted, so that projects can rapidly make the changes they need to be successful.

During this pandemic, many young people have been left without the support they need. They’ve lost time at school and they’ve struggled to access support from the adults they rely on – from teachers to youth workers.

The work that many organisations – from youth charities to local authorities – have done to make sure they’re still there for young people has been incredible. Whether that’s running outdoor activities, online events or sending families food parcels, organisations have acted fast to change the way they work. They’ve provided a lifeline for many children who are living in difficult circumstances.

We hope that this briefing helps others to learn from their experiences, so that young people get the support they need through this difficult time.

Jon Yates, Executive Director of the Youth Endowment Fund

The pace of change, adaptation and innovation is fast. It follows that how we learn, use and generate evidence needs to keep pace. Our Learning Partnership is drawing upon foundational bodies of evidence and bringing this to life through the practical knowledge and experience of those working tirelessly to engage and support young people during this time. It is our intention that this learning and insight will empower those working with young people to create the foundations for lasting impact.

Dr Tim Hobbs, Chief Executive of Dartington Service Design Lab

To download the Youth Endowment Fund’s Insights Brief: Engaging young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.