Our Approach and Sharing Online Risk Assessment
Like all other organisations, Carefree have had to adapt the way we work with our young people significantly since lockdown began. It took us a number of weeks to research thoroughly how best we were going to deliver online sessions and consider all the new potential safeguarding risks (for both staff and YP). Below is our Online Group Risk Assessment in case people want to see our approach. This document is continually being updated but shows where we are at so far. It considers how staff and young people can keep themselves safe while participating in online groups.
While this assessment work was being done we kept in touch with young people by regular phones calls, sending postcards, updating our Facebook page and emailing foster carers. The most important thing for us in the first month of lockdown was to ensure every young person knew Carefree was still there for them despite not being able to meet face to face.
Although lockdown has posed one of the biggest challenges to our organisation so far it has also opened up opportunities for different ways of working and revealed gaps in our staff’s knowledge and skill set.
When lockdown started, our team was given a ‘case load’ of young people who we currently have regular contact by phone. This as youth workers has given us opportunities to build 1:1 relationship with YP as well as with foster carers and social workers. Carefree normally focusses on delivering group work with very little 1:1 offered; supporting young people’s personal development as they learn amongst their peers. However, this 1:1 work has been a chance to build relationships with young people and offer them support in a different way.
You often see a different side of a young person’s personality when they are away from a group of peers, and quality, targeted conversations can be had without being distracted by another member of the group. 1:1 work poses different challenges and may not be appropriate for many organisation or individuals reading this blog but for our youth work team it has been a nice silver lining. We have been careful to listen to young people regarding how they feel about this new 1:1 contact. Some have said they really appreciate the weekly chats while others have said they are fatigued by the stream of professionals contacting them to ask ‘how they are’ all the time.
Young people have also responded differently to the offer of online groups, and we are in the process of collecting feedback from them on how they have found them so far. Some are really struggling with not attending face to face sessions and find the idea of joining online groups really weird. Some have dealt with the switch well while others are thriving on the new offer. We have found the drop-out rate for sessions has increased massively just before a session starts. It’s probably much easier for a young person to refuse, last minute, to click on a link while sitting in their lounge. For those that do join we are ensuring we build in loads of ice breaker games to help with any initial anxiety and every young person has a 1:1 zoom induction with a worker before they are allowed to join any groups.
Young people are spending more time than ever online during lockdown and unfortunately this means they are more at risk. One of the first things we did as a team when lockdown hit, was to find some good quality training on online safety. We suspected we would see an increase in online safeguarding incidents amongst care experienced young people and we were right. It has made us realise that we were not talking about online safety enough in groups before, and staff lacked the skills and knowledge to do so. I can thoroughly recommend the CPD certified NSPCC online training (£31) on internet safety which provides a good introduction to the topic. And there is a list of great websites and resources below. I would really encourage organisations to upskill their staff in this area and run a session to explore how they are going to drip feed online safety training within their sessions as well as discuss how leaders will deal with online safety concerns (during and after the session).
Music organisations and sessional leaders who are there to do music, not youth work, might find this daunting and out of their remit and comfort zones but we have seen that it is essential work and lockdown poses a good opportunity to start talking openly about these issues which are really real for young people.
Musical Gaps and Opportunities
For community musicians whose skill lies in delivering music sessions face to face with people in a room (and consequently avoided/resisted developing their music tech skills) lockdown has posed some big challenges. It certainly has for me.
But the lockdown has also offered new opportunities, and oddly, given me courage to try new ways of working and develop new musical skills. A range of networking, training and CPD opportunities have suddenly become easily accessible to me, and I have finally started learning the guitar and downloaded my first DAW and VST plugin! Bring on the new ideas, tracks and music making...
Online Safety Resources:
Music and Arts Coordinator at Carefree Cornwall