Most of the young people we work with have never seen better days.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the young people we work with were just about hanging on. Many live in poverty or in households where domestic violence is a routine brutality. There are young people struggling to cope with a range of mental health challenges, or different physical ability. They may be experiencing prejudice over their ethnic background, faith or sexuality. School, college or university might be too much for them. A good, fulfilling job seems a world away.

The Covid-19 pandemic has piled yet more onto them: even more isolation, increased violence at home, digital poverty, worsening mental health. We recorded an 80% increase in the number of young people seeking support for their mental health from our Wellbeing Practitioners.

Bristol City Council has projected a doubling in the numbers of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2021. There’ll be more than a thousand of them.

How do we support young people?

They come to us referred by their parents or carers, maybe their school or social services, sometimes they find themselves in the midst of a crisis and just walk-in. We also have youth workers meeting young people where they gather, in neighbourhood parks and other spaces. However they come, we start by trying to understand the individual and their own circumstances and issues. This is intensive one-to-one work.

This is intensive one-to-one work.

When they’re ready, we encourage them to experience sessions at one of our seven youth centres across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, or join one of our special groups, like our Welcome Wednesdays, devoted to young refugees and asylum seekers, or like our groups for young carers or young LGBTQ+ people.

We provide them with free transport, safe spaces, food and most important of all, a trusted adult the young person knows they can go to for support.

Creativity is threaded throughout our work, as a means and sometimes an end. Young people can find a new voice for themselves in a creative practice. It doesn’t matter how good they are, it does matter they have fun, enjoy being alongside their peers, maybe learn a skill. If they do want to deepen their skills or even pursue a career in the creative industries, we support them with a variety of courses.

For young people who are not in employment, education or training, we work with them to build their confidence, produce a strong CV, rehearse for interviews and even provide them transport and clothes for interviews and jobs.

There are young people we support who have urgent mental health needs. For them, our specially trained Wellbeing Practitioners work alongside them with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and other talking therapies. If necessary, we will support the young people to access other agencies for issues such as major mental health crises, or substance misuse.

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