THE THINKING BEHIND IT…
No Wrong Door has been working collaboratively with partner agencies providing wrap-around support (and easy access to this) to young people in Herefordshire for several years. At its heart is listening to what young people need and building trusted relationships to then help guide them through whichever ‘door’ they need to enter.
As with many organisations in the sector, the Covid pandemic had the potential to hinder the initial process of building relationships. As we know, it can be an incredibly hard and overwhelming task for any of us to ask for help. For a young person, this is amplified ten-fold. Many may have had issues with figures of authority before, or adults within their own lives, so to trust adults they don’t know at all can, understandably, be laced with an edge of suspicion. NWD has always managed to dampen these fears through engagement. However, as the second lockdown struck, our outreach van Mylo lay stationary in the car-park, our office doors closed, our usual access to schools inhibited, and at a time when young people needed support more than ever. So, when our Youth Reps suggested a weekly online social group, the idea was grabbed with both hands.
WHAT IS IT?
The group happens weekly on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 and is open to anyone aged 13-25 (with the exception of the first Wednesday of each month which is the Hereford Youth Rep slot). A worker is always online 10 minutes earlier to meet any new participants, and for however long needed at the end if anyone wants a chat about any worries they’re having. The main session is, however, far more informal, and, invariably, far more hilarious! After 5 minutes of general ‘how are you, how’s your week been?’ chat, we launch into the topic for that week. It’s always chosen by a young person (on a rotating basis) and the result has been a very eclectic mix! Some have been standard; film, gaming, art, music. Others less so; pancakes (veering into religion), radio, fantasy story-lines, adventure, mobile phones! It gives young people a chance to shine in topics they have a particular passion for, but also opens up conversations that are often unexpected. For example, discovering that one young person’s ideal celebrity meet-up would be tea at KFC with the Hulk, that one is a trained ski-instructor, that one can read braille music, that one can design computer games. Every session has points of laughter, but also a really heart-warming quality, and where conversations go deeper the compassion and empathy the young people show towards each other is admirable. They are all incredibly different people, from all walks of life, but yet they are united in aspects of values, care and, sometimes, struggles. It is inspiring to see and a privilege to be a part of.
WHAT HAS ITS IMPACT BEEN?
In the immediacy, the impact is clear: it has provided a safe and consistent environment for young people that would otherwise have felt isolated in what are very uncertain times. In the words of the young people themselves…
‘I always feel ten times better after going’
‘Everyone accepts each other, there’s no toxicity, no-one being nasty’
‘Really amazing group with like-minded people with a kind nature’
‘It’s my safe place’
A marked difference in terms of confidence has been seen with all in terms of willingness to speak and appear on screen. This has been replicated in their personal lives - a sense of purpose and confidence has been fostered and three of the members have been inspired to access further education since attending sessions. Members that are particularly vulnerable due to isolation and had a previous propensity towards negative behaviours/coping mechanisms, have appreciated having a ‘constant’ in inconsistent times and look forward to meeting each week. As expected, it has also fed into the ‘wrap-around’ approach, with some members having the confidence to now access 1 to 1 support and referrals to partner agencies where needed. Likewise, some young people have been referred to the Social from these.
There’s also been opportunity to share key findings/interesting topics with our partners in the form of the ‘NWD Social News and Reviews’ that is distributed when relevant. Many have used this as stimulus with their own young people, so the reach has been widened. They, along with HYR Low-downs (the equivalent feedback from the Hereford Youth Rep sessions), have also been used as resources in local schools. As ever, spreading the voice of young people is paramount.
BEYOND THE SOCIAL?
Despite the world slowly regaining motion and opening up, the on-line social is going no-where! It has, however, given us even more impetus to pursue a route of ‘informal’ positive activities to build trust, and provide an outlet should young people need it, which can then lead as a conduit into our partner agencies. As a result, the fantastic outreach work is back up and running – Going for Goal and Drift-Triking now happening weekly. There’s also a new summer face-to-face group programme for differing ages from 9 to 25 (Why Don’t You…) that combines discussion, creativity and entertainment (and generally lots of biscuits!). These activities, plus one-to-ones and work with local schools, means that over 100 young people are now engaging with No Wrong Door every week. Long may it last and thankyou to all those young people who inspire us to do what we do.
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