Our first Secure New Futures youth course (age 16 – 25) started this month (11th March). Eleven people attended - a fantastic outcome- and feedback from trainers suggested participants were getting on well and were excited about the coming weeks.
One of the candidates involved said, “It felt good to be able to meet people and talk about my stuff and still feel accepted. It felt really good” whilst Ben stated, “I really love the course so far, in particular the discussion on Hopes and Fears – really liked writing in the big piece of paper and seeing it in front of me.”
Friendship groups started to form with candidates meeting up outside of the official course hours. This is a huge achievement as most are struggling with social anxiety and were worried about joining a group of this size.
Southampton Voluntary Services closed its doors on 17th March, leaving participants disappointed and vulnerable after the initial support the charity had provided.
We were determined not to leave them stranded.
Fortunately, all those at Safe New Futures have remained resilient and positive during our current crisis. Our trainers have worked creatively over the last few days and have now set in place a remote version of our courses which replaces the work taking place at the center.
All our young participants from the Secure New Futures project have been keen to continue working with us, and we have already started delivering our remote services to those involved. These services are currently split into three main areas:
Phone / video calls
All participants are being contacted regularly by phone and trainers are spending time counselling and listening to their concerns. Some participants, particularly those suffering from anxiety, have been extremely worried about the coronavirus situation and have been grateful for the 1-to-1 support, and our tips for handling the current stressful environment. These 1-to-1 sessions have also reviewed participants personal SMART goals. Trainers have reported back that they have been able to carry out more 1-to-1 sessions than usual and this has been a big help to candidates.
A simple email communication method has been tested where session information is forwarded onto participants along with tasks/ information sheets that they need to fill in and return. These are followed up by phone calls giving relevant feedback. This has worked well with participants being appreciative of the exercises they received and the additional 1-to-1 time that has enabled them to get the most out of their sessions.
An important part of the programme is the social interaction between participants and the subsequent support they give to each other. For this reason, we have set up video conferencing so the group can continue to work together on team challenges and other group exercises.
The first conference took place on the 20th March and initial feedback from the trainers suggested this type of delivery worked well. They were able to move comfortably between camera, slideshows, and whiteboard displays; it will therefore be something we will be refining over the next couple of weeks as an essential part of our remote learning experience.
We are aware that some of our participants may not be as comfortable with new technology as others. We will need to respond to people sensitively in a case by case situation. For some phone calls and emails might be all they can cope with but for others phone apps might work best.
We are already looking into running future courses online depending on how the coronavirus situation unfolds. To be prepared we are contacting our existing partners to let them know we are still ‘open for business’ and that they should continue referring on young people who might benefit from our work.
Long term solutions
Online courses were already in the pipeline this year. We knew they would give us the opportunity to reach out to more people and extend our services nationally. The developments made over the last week therefore has given us a new great resource which we hope to refine and roll out in the future.
It is obvious that unemployment is going to be a huge cause of concern, once we get to the other side of the coronavirus health crisis, so our services will be vital in helping many of those affected get the help they need to get back to work and re-engage with community activities.
The most vulnerable in our society: those without educational qualifications or work experience, on zero-hour contracts, in low-paid jobs in hospitality and other affected industries, and those who have been physically at-risk or reliant on food banks will be some of the individuals most affected. Our services to help these people are more important now than they have ever been.
We are very thankful for the support of our funders at this time in helping us reach out to the most vulnerable in Southampton and other parts of Hampshire during this difficult time.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries or need more information.