Years of youth services ‘wiped out’ by Covid-19 pandemic, warns charity

Irish Youth Foundation (IYF) survey show concerns about long-term impact on youth

Some 39 per cent  are experiencing social isolation and more than one in five are living with family conflict. Above, Grafton Street in Dublin at the end of March.  Photograph: Bryan O Brien / The Irish Times

Some 39 per cent are experiencing social isolation and more than one in five are living with family conflict. Above, Grafton Street in Dublin at the end of March. Photograph: Bryan O Brien / The Irish Times

 

More than half of all young people between the ages of 15 and 23 are concerned about their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey.

The Generation Pandemic – Mental Health study carried out by the Irish Youth Foundation surveyed youth workers in 700 youth groups, after-school clubs and sports clubs across the country.

Separately, it questioned by phone hundreds of teenagers and young adults who use their services.

Half of all the youth workers and professionals surveyed say the pandemic’s long-term impact on the mental health of young people is a major concern.

Nearly 47 per cent say that falling behind with studies and exam stress is the biggest issue, and over 21 per cent say they are worried that young people may not get back into education or a normal routine.

In the tracking survey of marginalised teenagers and young adults (age 15 to 23), 64 per cent say that they are having difficulty maintaining routine and structure, 53 per cent have mental health concerns and 35 per cent are concerned that they are falling behind in school.

In addition, 39 per cent are experiencing social isolation and more than one in five are living with family conflict.

The twin-track research was commissioned by the foundation and carried out by Amárach Research.

The foundation is seeking to raise €1.5 million to help youth services get up and running again after Covid-19.

Irish Youth Foundation chief executive Lucy Masterson said the survey, though just a snapshot of opinion, revealed that the Covid-19 lockdown had “seriously damaged the lives and prospects of the country’s most marginalised young.”

She said years of work carried out in communities by youth workers was being “wiped out” by the Covid-19 pandemic which has left schools and youth services al closed since March.

“While smart subsidies were put in place to keep employers connected to employees, no such support was there to keep vulnerable young people connected to their lifelines, to the youth workers and programme they so rely on,” she said.

“The stakes are as high as they could be for many young people. Their education prospects hang in the balance. Their wellbeing and mental health has taken a battering.

“As the country rebuilds, no child’s future should hang in the balance because of this virus or a lack of support. If our children aren’t rebuilt, the country isn’t either.”

The Generation Pandemic fund is aimed primarily at businesses, corporations and private donors. It will go directly to the youth groups and community organisations on the frontline.

The fund will be used firstly to assist youth workers to identify, reconnect with and persuade young people to re-engage with crucial services.

The fund will also be used to resource programmes, facilities and supports across the key areas of education, health and wellbeing and further learning and employment.