Ann Nicholls is Worcester City Council’s Youth Intervention team manager.  Here she describes what it’s like working on the frontline throughout the pandemic to engage with young people, so that they – and others – can keep safe.

I’ve been quite impressed by young people’s behaviour during the lockdown so far.  I know that not everyone will agree, and yes, there is a minority who have been out and about causing problems. However, the vast majority of young people in Worcester have been respecting the rules. Many are frightened, too.

Local partners share information with me on reports of young people gathering in groups in parks and open spaces. As I’ve worked with young people in the city for several years, I’ve already built up a relationship with several of those we encounter.

In order to build up trust, you have to listen to what young people have so say too.  We have the conversation and I say, OK, you may not get coronavirus yourself – but you could still pass it on to someone close to you. Many of them do have vulnerable relatives, and it makes them think. I also emphasise the importance of hand washing – it still is the number one thing that young people, in fact everyone, can do to prevent the spread of the virus.

We shouldn’t assume that all young people have a safe, loving home to go to.  They may be out to escape what’s happening at home. Many are confused and depressed. Frustration is building, with schools closed and so many limits placed on what they can do and where they can go.

Parents need to talk to their children – and to listen. Keep them up to date with the situation and above all, be honest.  Establishing a routine is really important – don’t let them stay in bed all day. Remind them of the importance of social distancing, and explain why it matters.

By keeping talking, by working together and by staying positive, we will come through this crisis. Young people are our future – so it is in everyone’s interests to support them as well as we can right now.

If you’re concerned about a young person’s welfare, call the police now on 101.