Over 80,000 young people have disengaged from youth services due to the Covid-19 pandemic
More than 80,000 young people have disengaged from youth clubs and services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).
The report describes how the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a reduction in services for young people, fewer youth groups and clubs and fewer volunteers.
Concerns have also been raised about the difficulty of reaching ‘at risk’ young people during periods of lockdown.
More than a thousand youth groups have closed and around 7,000 volunteers have also been lost according to the report.
Three surveys of 70 young people, 54 executives and 240 facilitators and volunteers were part of the research. Focus groups with youth workers, volunteers and young people were also used.
Only 32% of youth workers reported being able to maintain full service.
63% were operating a reduced service and 5% of respondents were closing their service completely.
Nearly 70% of respondents reported a decrease in the number of young people using their services.
The report estimated that there were at least 80,000 fewer young people engaged in services compared to pre-pandemic figures.
Burnout and stress were a problem among people who worked in the sector, and many youth workers expressed concern about not being able to reach young people during the closures.
While the majority of services used technologies such as Zoom and WhatsApp, the report warned that some young people’s lack of digital access meant they could not engage.
Half of the staff who took part in the research said that young people who were “at risk” or marginalized were difficult to reach during the closures.
“The youngsters were really struggling and could have been content with the option of entering the service in a safe and controlled way, but that option was removed and we were forced to work remotely unless the youngster was deemed to be in ‘crisis’,” said a youth worker who participated in the research.
“Youth workers should be allowed to work from buildings if the area can be safely controlled.”
The report also says funds will be needed to re-engage young people and to increase the recruitment, training and support of volunteers and staff.
A young person who took part in the research said youth services should have remained open during the closures.
“I mean, what they’re doing is actually phenomenal, even if it’s really unheard of – people go above and beyond what they have to do and look after your sanity, like they’ll stay up all night and would help you if you. .. as long as you need it… I think the government should recognize that.