Experiences of 2020

Youth Worker

"I am a key worker in a residential unit which cares for teenagers up to the age of 18. Because of the lockdown conditions imposed nationally, the young members are no longer able to go out the way they could before. They cannot have visits with their family and loved ones.

This has sometimes caused a spike in aggression and violence towards staff members. We don’t blame these young people – we know that emotions are running high and feelings are ranging from anxiety and fear to boredom. We try and do what we can to ensure everyone is occupied and has something to do to keep them busy. This usually includes a range of competitions and gaming activities. We also try and ensure that they are actively involved in this by working cooperatively with us to come up with their own initiatives around creativity and learning. Residents often work together to come up with “ DIY tasks” for the accommodation where we try to promote sharing and the benefits of team working. Cooking competitions and activities have also been a big hit. Given the suspension of so many services at present, this is extremely important to not only keep our young people occupied but also to continually promote independent living as it is crucial they do not fall behind on the great progress they have made.

With self-isolation in place for those experiencing symptoms, it means we are stretched to capacity whilst also taking on extra duties and having to go above and beyond in measuring outcomes for the kids. The seriousness of still having to go to work and not being able to relax afterwards by doing what were normal things up until recently, like seeing friends or going shopping, is hard. Small things like being unable to sit in Starbucks and have a coffee and read a magazine all of a sudden feels like a million miles away. It means that trying to unwind after you finish a long shift during this time is quite a stressful experience. Not being able to see family and friends is emotionally draining. The more the news goes on every day, I worry more and more about being a carrier from something like touching a door handle and transferring it to people who might be vulnerable.

The impact that being a key worker has on your mental health is hard – you are literally waking up, going to work where capacities are stretched to breaking point, coming home and sleeping just to do it all over again. I worry about the kids I look after, my colleagues and everyone else around me. The only thing I can do is focus on being able to go out and do normal things again when this is over and think of that light at the end of the tunnel.

I am proud of the work myself and my colleagues continue to do during this time and to see the recognition we are getting from the public is amazing."

- The writer of this blog wishes to remain anonymous due to the nature of their role.