This week on the podcast, which you can listen to on Spotify, Anchor or Apple, I talked to Matt Perry of Worth Unlimited about the impact of Covid 19 on the work of his organisation, and in particular the challenges he faces as National Director. Matt and I trained together many years ago so it was great to catch up with him again! He is married to Helen who was one of the project managers I spoke to in the process of writing the book, Helen and I explored issues about keeping the workers safe and balancing the need of some to shield for the sake of their family with the needs of young people in their area. It’s not clear cut, there’s not much about Covid and the responses to it that has been clear cut! What is clear is that balance is needed and Matt and I discuss this, the need for youth workers to not only keep themselves safe from infection but also to be kind to themselves in terms of their capacity.
Just as our teenagers have lost their residual physical fitness because they’ve been sitting in front of a screen rather than moving around at school, so many youth workers who were incredibly busy dashing about from place to place, maybe regularly walking to their workplace or from one group to another, as their role has often become more static have also lost some of that residual fitness and ability to multitask. We shouldn’t be surprised that our heads feel foggier or our concentration spans are not what they used to be.
We are weary of all the change.
We are grieving for lost opportunities.
We are way outside of our comfort zones.
Once again the issue of burnout and overwhelm came up, Matt and I talked about the amazing job that youth workers do of problem solving. Even before the pandemic one of the defining features of someone working with young people and subject to different funding streams or different set ups in schools for example, we have always been flexible and able to solve a potential problem of what can be done and how it can happen. In the past year this has been in overdrive, so it’s no wonder you and I are feeling it!
It’s important then that line managers, employers and youth workers themselves are kind and recognise the toll this last year has taken on our energy, our physical and mental health. If you are looking for someone to offload to, to help you unravel difficult issues or think things through more clearly then I can recommend mentoring or coaching. There are lots of us now offering this work, to get in touch with me use the contact form here, I’m also happy to recommend Andy Campbell whose website is here, and Will Taylor whose website is here. Will is my coach and having someone who has helped me figure work challenges out has been absolutely invaluable to me over the last year or so.
I love the campaign that Worth Unlimited are running called Get Up and Gold, promoting positive stories about young people to show that they have unlimited worth. Do get involved by registering with Worth Unlimited and doing something gold related to show your support for young people. It’s time that young people know that they are valuable, that they have a voice that is important and that there are adults who want to support them and lift them up.
If you’d like to buy a copy of my book: From Isolation to Community: Youth Work in the Covid Era and Beyond then use the buttons on the home page here