Impact of Covid-19 on youth in Carlow highlighted in report
By Elizabeth Lee
Carlow Regional Youth Services have contributed to a research report launched by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) in which it was found that, nationally, vulnerable children and teenagers became disconnected with youth services during the pandemic lockdown.
The report, ‘A Review of the Youth Work Sector Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic’, was produced by researchers Deborah Erwin and Lorraine Thompson, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research tools, including a survey of youth services, focus groups with young people, ‘check-in’ sessions with youth workers, and interviews with youth-sector stakeholders.
Carlow Regional Youth Services participated in the stakeholder interviews and ‘check-in’ sessions that informed the report.
On a national level, the report highlights how the Covid-19 pandemic made it more difficult for youth services to engage with ‘at risk’ or marginalised young people. 67% of youth workers surveyed cited this as a key limitation of the move to online models of working.
Commenting today, Mary Cunningham, CEO of NYCI, said: “The research shows clearly that young people who were already most at risk became the most disconnected during the pandemic. Young people already experiencing poverty, for example, became even more isolated. Covid-19 had a compounding effect, whereby online engagement was significantly hampered for young people already experiencing marginalisation in various ways.”
“The pandemic exposed a whole range of inequalities and exacerbated vulnerabilities in the youth sector. While, undoubtedly, youth workers in Carlow – and throughout the country – showed their creativity and flexibility in numerous ways, it does not make the marginalisation experienced by young people any less challenging,” Mary continued. “The drop in engagement levels paints a stark picture and demonstrates just how important face-to-face youth work is, particularly for those in marginalised and vulnerable situations.”
“What is important now is for the youth sector to get into a stronger position to meet the current and emerging needs of young people in the face of challenges arising from the pandemic. Youth organisations need to be ready to change at a moment’s notice and prepare to offer a ‘blended’ approach to youth services combining digital and face-to-face methods. In the coming months, funding and investment for the youth sector will be vital, as will technological innovation and ICT infrastructure, training for digital skills and on various digital platforms, and Covid-19 compliance.”