The government has declared youth activities exempt from the restrictions…
Back in March youth workers around the country were forced to do the unthinkable; abandon our posts at our youth centres, churches and schools, with no idea as to when we might see our young people again
(not that we are likely to recognise a bunch of them now thanks to the throws of puberty).
We moved services online, utilising Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Houseparty and even that app TikTok that President Trump seems fascinated with, and for some months, we made it work because without adapting our provision to the online world, many more young people would fall prey to further isolation and mental health issues.
The return of young people to education has been a real turning point for everyone within the youth sector. Finally, we can plan some face to face sessions, check in with those young people who don’t want to see their face mirrored back at them in a virtual youth club session, and get back to what we do best; beating 13 year olds at pool!
And yet when I opened up my News app on Wednesday morning, I was horrified to see that new social distancing restrictions were to be imposed the following Monday, with groups of no more than 6 permitted to meet.
Skip to lots of phone calls with equally concerned colleagues across the sector, whatsapp exchanges with my trustee board and waking up at 3am, desperately searching google for some kind of guidance for us as a youth provider, and would you believe it, it was there.
Turns out, the National Youth Agency (NYA) have been working with the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England to produce some pretty impressive Covid-19 guidance which they published for youth organisations working with young people from the age of 4- 25. This guidance has been approved by the Home Office and, if you are a youth provider, you need to be reading it!
Let me give you the headlines:
- There are 4 readiness levels; red, amber, yellow and green. We are currently in amber, which means that we can deliver online and digital youth services, detached/outdoor local youth services (consistent with social distancing guidelines), 1-2-1 sessions (indoors) and small group sessions delivered indoors (consistent with social distancing guidelines).
- The youth sector is EXEMPT from the current 6 person only social restrictions (I know right?). This is because we are able to put control measures in place to keep young people safe (don’t believe me? You can see the exempt list here
- We can continue to run groups with bubbles of 15 young people PLUS staff members (personal assistants count as staff). The argument for this was ‘if parents can still go to the pub, young people should be able to go to a youth club’.
- Indoor club activities (playing XBox, baking, crafts etc) can all continue provided all social distancing, hand washing and cleaning measures are in place, young people aged 11 plus wear masks and bubbles are adhered to. No tuck shops!
- Young people can be transported in buses/cars etc, as long as masks are worn and social distancing measures are in place.
- Youth sector organisations cannot apply guidance for the education sector or sports clubs to their activities. The NYA guidance is THE guidance to use, and for litigation purposes you need to be following it. This applies to faith organisations running youth activities too.
- Youth activities need to be ‘Covid secure’. Sounds scary I know, but full information on how to become Covid secure is very helpfully supplied below.
So in short, no, those youth club activities you planned for next week don’t need to be cancelled.
The government has declared youth activities exempt from the restrictions, finally acknowledging the importance of our sector and the impact we have on today’s youth (follow it up with some long term funding for the youth sector Mr. Johnson and I’ll dedicate my next tiktok video to you).
Links to all information you need is below:
- The best way to keep informed about what readiness level we are at, and therefore the restrictions that apply to our sector is go directly to the NYA’s website, which they update every Monday afternoon. You can sign up to their network (for free) and receive email notifications as soon as the readiness level changes
- The NYA Covid-19 guidance in full is here
- They’ve created a really handy 6 minute video that explains the guidance
- Guidance on how to become a ‘Covid Secure’ provider is here
As a parting note, I’ll leave you with this; the Chief Exec of the NYA declared it to be very unlikely that face to face youth provision will come to a stop as it did in March, even in the event of local or national lockdowns. Perhaps with these reassuring words we can breathe a sigh of relief and I can go back to watching videos of fainting goats next time I wake up at 3am in the morning.
Kailea is the Chief Executive Officer at Solent Youth Action, a youth provision charity for vulnerable young people aged 10 – 25.