An important part of CAP’s work is to partner with local organisations to offer alcohol-free activities for young people to enhance their conﬁdence, health and well-being.
On the Isle of Wight, we work with Network Ryde, which in normal times runs an outreach café which provides a safe space, drop-in sessions and activities for young people aged 11-19.
When the café had to close at the end of March, the challenge was to ensure that its young users continued to feel supported and engaged.
Youth worker Maiya Dixon says: “Most of our young people have mobile phones, and social media – especially Instagram – is really popular with this age group. So we started to offer live Instagram sessions covering topics from science experiments and mental health awareness to creative activities and baking. The sessions are run by Network Ryde youth workers, except on Fridays when the young people set the agenda and decide what they want to do, whether that’s discussing overcoming anxiety or doing art.”
Maiya and the team worked quickly to send out care packs to their young clients, with activities, hot chocolate, cake mixes and art supplies. They included news of the new virtual youth club and also spread the word on social media and through local organisations.
The response has been tremendous. Maiya says: “The Instagram sessions are open to everyone and more than 1,000 young people took part in the first four weeks. As youth workers we do miss the day to day contact with our young people, and the chance to chat with them about any issues they might have. But the young people themselves seem to love this new way of working, and it’s also giving us the opportunity to engage their brothers, sisters and parents.”
Getting important messages out
As well as an impressive range of activities, Network Ryde is also getting out important messages about alcohol issues and the need to stay at home and not mix with their friends. “Because they know and trust us, they listen to what we have to say and we’ve not seen any of our young people out drinking on the streets,” says Maiya.
The project has also been raising awareness through a new art project. Last year it successfully gained funding from the Local Alcohol Action Areas programme for an art project to highlight the dangers of alcohol misuse. This work was recognised with a CAP Innovation Award at the House of Lords in January.
Now with funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner it has set up a new art challenge for its young users to come up with posters to illustrate the importance of social distancing. The resulting 16 posters will be displayed on all Ryde billboards, in the café window, in shops and charity premises.
“We are absolutely delighted with the response – and by how we’re managing to continue supporting our young people during this difficult time,” says Maiya. “We may not have chosen to do it this way, but we’ll certainly be using social media more in the future.”