fbpx Safeguarding young people online during the COVID-19 lockdown - London Youth

06 May 2020

As soon as COVID-19 reached the UK in early March, our sector was turned upside down. Most youth workers across London were forced to stop all face-to-face work. This left us all wondering: how on earth can we support young people if we can’t see or speak to them in person?

Our thoughts quickly turned to technology and the online platforms that could provide quick, simple and effective ways to maintain communication with young people. This was a weird space to be in for youth workers. For the last ten years, many of us have been encouraging young people to put down their smart phones and tablets in order to engage in meaningful, face to face conversation and learn how to appreciate the here and now. Suddenly, we are asking young people to pick up their phones and tablets so we can stay in touch!

Online communication is better that no communication after all, and in the current climate, it’s all we’ve got to work with.

Moving our work online

Some of you may be absolute tech wizards and already deliver online youth work safely and with ease. Some of you may not have a lot of experience of using online platforms but decided to move your services online quickly to prevent gaps in provision. Some of you may have taken a more considered approach and undertaken risk assessments and carefully weighed up which platforms to use and why. And some of you may not have the foggiest idea of what to do, as tech is ‘not your thing’ and you’ve only just got your head around what TikTok and Snapchat are!

My message to you is don’t worry; we are all at different starting points with our tech knowledge and we all work in different ways with different groups of young people. This means that the way in which we move our services online will differ, and that’s okay. The biggest thing we need to consider is how we do this safely.

5 Tips for moving delivery online

  1. Research all available online platforms to decide which one will work best for you (it is important to read the app’s terms and conditions thoroughly)

  2. Contact parents/carers and young people to let them know you are moving services online and what this service will look like moving forward.

  3. Update your website and/or social media accounts to keep people up to date

  4. Deliver staff training on how to use the platform(s) you have chosen to use

  5. Ensure that you have enough staff to run online provision safely (ideally there must be at least two workers present in an online session)

Online Safeguarding

I have spoken to many of my friends who are youth workers over the last month and the most common concern being raised is how to safeguard young people when delivering youth work online. This is an understandable concern, especially as this way of working is brand new and feels alien to many of us.

The most important thing to remember here is that safeguarding policy and procedures should be followed in exactly the same way as when you deliver face to face youth work. You will still need parent/carer contact numbers and their consent, you will still need a working agreement or code of conduct in place for young people and staff, all staff or volunteers involved in online youth work will still need to possess a current DBS certificate (within 3 years of its issue date), you will still need to report safeguarding concerns to your Designated Safeguarding Officer (DSO) or Local Safeguarding Partnership.

In a nutshell, everything needs to stay the same when it comes to safeguarding, you will just need to make a few additions or slight amendments to a selection of your policies and procedures in order to ensure that everyone taking part in online youth work is safe from harm. Please click here to download a checklist of which policies and procedures you will need to update.

Top Tips for online safeguarding

  1. Update your policies and procedures that contain elements of safeguarding.

  2. Create a document that clearly outlines which policies and procedures you have updated and make this accessible to staff and stakeholders, so people have an understanding of what exactly has changed in light of COVID-19. Click here to download a template.

  3. Research online platforms thoroughly before choosing the one(s) you will use.

  4. Explore all the settings and features on the platform(s) you will be using and make sure they are set correctly before each session.

  5. Once you have decided which app(s) you will use, undertake a detailed safeguarding risk assessment of each one in order to understand what control measures need to be implemented to keep people safe. Click here to download a template.

  6. Ensure that staff do not use their personal telephone numbers or email addresses to join online youth work sessions. Ideally, staff should use a work phone, however, in the absence of a work phone they must use a work email address to register with the online platform.

  7. Add additional rules to the code of conduct that specifically address working online e.g. participants must not send the session invite to anyone that is not a member of the youth organisation.

  8. Send parents/carers and young people information and guidance on safeguarding when online and explain how the new online sessions will work before you start the work. Click here for templates of letters and information sheets.

  9. Ensure that at least two staff are present during online sessions and make sure that all staff understand their role, e.g. who is leading the session, who is monitoring behaviour and who will be taking register etc.

  10. If the reporting of safeguarding concerns were previously undertaken by completing physical forms (pre COVID-19), you will need create a digital version of the form that can be filled in and emailed to the organisations DSO.

  11. Establish a system for reporting any issues occurring online so that staff, young people or parents/carers can report directly to the relevant person in your organisation.

  12. If the platform you choose can record sessions, please make sure you are clear as an organisation whether this is permitted. If you wish to use the recording functions of an app you will need to address this in your Data Protection and GDPR policy.

  13. Keep a log of all your virtual youth sessions with de-brief notes and the register attached.

For those of you that are still able to deliver youth work during this incredibly challenging time, I hope that this blog is useful to you. I’ll continue to create resources that are helpful at this time for all our members, so please do get in touch with us if there are things you need support with. For those of you that have been furloughed or are facing uncertainty, I hope that, once this crisis has passed, you are able to get back to doing what you all do best: delivering outstanding youth work for young people.

– Lee Ritchie, Membership Development Officer

Click here to view our latest updates on COVID-19.

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