Effects of Covid-19 across youth work and youth activities

"The Covid-19 pandemic (hereafter Covid-19) is having a significant effect on all dimensions of young citizens’ lives, it requires specific attention and tailored measures from both governmental and nongovernmental organisations. The pandemic has dramatically affected the youth sector: very few organisations managed to move their activities online to have a significant outreach to young people – especially to those with fewer opportunities, policymakers have been attempting to develop rapidly a coherent set of measures to tackle the current challenges, while researchers have launched different projects and initiatives to document the impact Covid-19 is having on young people and potentially on their future development." 

--- Summary of the survey on the Effects of Covid-19 across youth work and youth activities, launched by the CMJ working group of the Council of Europe

Apart from having a reduced base for the selection of volunteers, the organisations also mentioned that board members tended to be less motivated and involved to support the activities, while staff members were also coping with the same lack of motivation – including the lack of any financial motivation to boost the activities. 

In terms of sources of funding, before the pandemic, the youth organisations were mostly financed through local, national and international calls for projects, fee-based programmes, private funds from companies or through annual governmental granting activities, their programmes being entirely based on these granting schemes. Once the Covid19 lockdown had started, most of these grants were delayed, private donors allocated funds to support medical systems, some of the members were not able to pay the fees for the programmes, online activities were not granted the same support as offline ones, local calls for projects – especially those organised by local governments or by local authorities – were either cancelled or postponed, while some of the beneficiaries that had already released grants for programmes that had to be postponed till 2021, asked to be reimbursed. 

The Council of Europe research points out that youth organizations  took additional measures to ensure their activities could continue, the majority resorted to online opportunities, especially by familiarising themselves with digital technologies. The digital tools and instruments they used included Digital badges, Miro, Google Hangout, Zoom, Facebook, Discord, Slack, Padlet and Jitsi. Youth organisations were not aware of many digital tools, instruments and practices developed by state authorities. Instead, in comments, they noted that state authorities should do this more often and make use of the expertise of youth organisations when setting them up. Many organizations had also tried a hybrid model of activities – combining some of the existent offline methodologies with the online ones and also set up training modules, both for their youth workers and their young beneficiaries in order to help them to become familiar with online tools and platforms. 

Now, the main questions that remain to be addressed are:

  •  How the CoVid19 pandemic influences the youth organisations which responded to the survey in terms of regular youth work activities undertaken in youth clubs, youth centres and other youth spaces, budgetary matters and youth outreach?
  • What practices need to be undertaken by the local, national and European youth organisations in view of the CoVid19 pandemic?
  •  What digital tools and instruments are proven to be successfully used or developed by youth organisations during the pandemic in order to support young people at local, national and European level?
  •  What kind of the support the youth organisations need to respond to the current crisis?

Supporting the youth work sector with child and youth protection considerations during Covid-19 and its related control measures

Covid-19 and its necessary control measures compound the challenges for vulnerable and at-risk young people. According to the National Youth Council of Ireland, the current crisis:

  • Signifies the disruption of a support network for many young people in Ireland
  • Puts young people and families who are already vulnerable under stress
  • Heightens the risk of abuse and neglect.

We are all working together to navigate these unprecedented circumstances, so the ICTIDC`s Children and Youth Programmes has put together some information to support young people and youth worker to continue their commitment to child and youth protection in their practice.

ICTIDC Child and Youth Protection Policy

In terms of the effects of the pandemic, a 2021 research of the Council of Europe highlighted that the majority of youth organisations stated they had to cancel all their programmes for 2020-1 due to a lack of funding and/or difficulties in keeping the organisations motivated through distance. The youth organisations were also asked whether the current situation has affected their existing or pending grant applications: 62% had experienced delays in responses, 45% had been granted an extension to their application and over 36% were facing budget cuts. Also, for the international organisations and for the organisations working mostly on youth mobility activities, the impact would continue to be visible. Most of them had had to cancel their mobility activities and, when and where possible, to move some of these planned activities online. The same happened for the organisations running national and international volunteering programmes, most of them were unable to continue these programmes.