In our latest Q&A, Darryl Elwood talks about living through the last year & what the young people he works with in Antrim & Newtownabbey have struggled with during lockdown.

Q. For you, what has it been like to live and work through the last few months while our offices have been closed and most work has been done remotely?

For me personally, is has been a bit of a mixed bag of emotions. At the beginning it seemed like I had a lot more personal time, time to get things done I wouldn’t normally have had the time to do etc.

However, having been in this situation for so long now, it has slowly but surely become a burden for me. I personal believe waking up, working and going to sleep in the same surroundings has been a tough ask, I will be glad to get back to working from the office again!

Q. What have young people been struggling with during lockdown and having to home school?

Young people, from my perspective, are fed up with not being able to see friends and congregate in social areas. It has been a struggle for most, going from being able to see their friends wherever and whenever they want, to not being able to really see them at all without being on the other side of a computer or a mobile phone screen.

Of course, that isn’t speaking for all young people we work with. Some have thrived and really used this time to study and catch up on their schoolwork, which is an excellent attitude towards a negative situation.

Q. Is there anything that has surprised you in particular about how young people have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns so far?

Not really. I half expected that young people would fall away from engagement when our work and school went to a fully online platform, however something that did surprise me was how much it encouraged young people to use this extra time to really study and get on top of their schoolwork.

Q. What long term support do you think young people need as part of the ‘recovery’ from the lockdown period and isolation?

It is evident that this lockdown has taken its toll on everyone, including young people, and I think it is very clear that we need to be providing platforms for young people to engage in mental health and well-being programmes & discussions.

Q. What are you looking forward to, personally and professionally, in the year ahead?

Personally, I am just looking forward to getting back to doing proper face-to-face youth work, getting back to a routine and being able to actually get up & go to work every day!