Wednesday, 22nd April 2020

The UK lockdown has brought new challenges to members of our youth programme and has forced us to adapt the support we provide them. But thanks to the dedication and resilience of our youth workers, volunteers and young people, our regular peer support sessions are continuing online and we’re able to respond quickly to emerging needs. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

Digital youth groups

Our weekly sessions – one for girls and young women and one for boys and young men – have been taking pace online, and are as lively and supportive as ever. Attendance has been largely unaffected as our youth group members quickly adapted to new formats and technologies. We even welcomed back a number of young people who hadn’t attended the group in a while, and one young person told us that the sessions are the highlight of his week.

Because of the lockdown, many youth group members were worried about their health, feeling triggered by being physically confined and feeling overwhelmed by the many different stories going around about the virus.

In response, we've helped the young people navigate the crisis by creating accessible guidance on trustworthy news and sources of information, and we’ve delivered life skills workshops on budgeting and protecting yourself from online fraud – key issues identified by the young people as risks in the newness and uncertainty of the lockdown. Last week we also held a virtual mindful breathing and stretching class to help all of us manage our emotions.

In addition to taking our weekly youth groups online, our youth workers acted quickly to create individual support plans for each young person – providing daily check in phone calls and referring them to expert professionals for specific needs such as accommodation or legal support.

In this together

The concept of ‘the future’ is often murky for young people living with the uncertainty of ongoing immigration appeals, decisions around their official status as victims of trafficking and access to education or employment. This sense of uncertainty was initially worsened by the lockdown, with many young people telling us they felt the weight of further delays to their life plans.

But with our re-launched English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes starting this week, we received brilliant feedback from many of the young people who were excited to learn a vital skill. Some reported feeling a renewed sense of hope for the future, as the classes give them the opportunity to take concrete steps towards achieving their goals and aspirations.

With ECPAT staff, volunteers and youth group members all living through isolation, our youth team set up a new initiative to maintain our close-knit sense of community. Every one of us is sharing photos, videos and voice notes of what we’re doing each day during the lockdown – sharing jokes, recipes and home workout tips.

Batseba Asefaw, ECPAT UK’s youth programme lead, said

It’s been great to see all of us – colleagues, volunteers, young people, all from different backgrounds and circumstances - come together to support each other through this strange time. This situation has really united us all and has shown the world what it’s like to live with daily uncertainty and fear.

We really appreciate everyone who responded to our emergency appeal and enabled us to continue being a stable presence in the lives of vulnerable young people. With the future uncertain, like many charities ECPAT UK is struggling to find funding and I would urge anyone who can to please make a donation towards our essential work.

A former ECPAT UK youth group member who helps deliver our youth groups, said

ECPAT UK is like a family for children and young people who have lost theirs. We will always be there for young people who need us – we’re all in this together.



ECPAT UK staff and members of our boys and young men's group (youth group members have their faces covered or blurred)

Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected] 0207 607 2136