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New research on young people and COVID-19. Open access youth work in a pandemic. Survey findings from Youth for Christ's 'Z-A of Faith & Spirituality'.

THE STORY

STATISTICS, TRENDS AND RESEARCH FOR YOUTH WORK

NEW IDEAS:

OPEN ACCESS YOUTH

WORK IN A PANDEMIC

BIG PICTURE:

THREE THEMES FROM

THE Z-A OF FAITH AND

SPIRITUALITY

youthscape.co.uk/research

VOL. 15

AUTUMN

2020


WELCOME TO

THE STORY

To be notified about new issues or

subscribe for printed copies visit

www.youthscape.co.uk/research/

the-story

In each issue of The Story we bring

you some of the latest research

related to young people and youth

work. We look for statistics, research

and trends which can shape your

work with young people – informing

your thinking and practice.

COVID-19 remains the focus of

much of our work. Dr Phoebe Hill

reflects on the loss of open-access

youth work (p.3), and our poster

highlights evidence to support digital

engagement with young people.

We’ve also updated our search for

research on COVID-19 and young

people, bringing you headlines from

a range of research published since

our last edition in May (p. 6-7). Finally,

we’ve been enjoying a recent report

from Youth for Christ about young

people’s views of faith and spirituality,

which you can read on pages 4-5.

Thanks for reading.

Lucie Shuker

Director of Research, Youthscape

IN THIS ISSUE:

NEW IDEAS

Open access youth work in

a pandemic

BIG PICTURE

Three themes from the Z-A

of faith and spirituality

NEW RESEARCH

The latest on young people

and COVID-19

YOUTH WORK DIAGRAMS

Online conferences and

festivals

EVERYTHING YOU NEED

TO KNOW ABOUT: ONLINE

YOUTH WORK

Other news…

P.3

P.4–5

P.6–7

P.8

REVERSE

Thanks to everyone who passed on our

survey for young Christians over the

summer. We’re looking forward to publishing

the results with Tearfund very soon!

I (Lucie) recently found out that The Story

is an acronym for ‘Statistics Trends and

Research for Youth Work’ which actually

makes it The Stary, but we won’t quibble.

P.2


NEW IDEAS

Open access youth work

in a pandemic

Dr Phoebe Hill

On the lower ground floor of the Youthscape

building, the drop-in has been eerily quiet for

months. No FIFA, pool or communal dinners.

None of the familiar noise of young people

coming and going as they please. Sadly, it

won’t re-open in its original form any time soon

because the freedom and flexibility needed to

run it is currently not possible. It’s likely young

people will have to sign up ahead of time in

order to attend any youth work provision in the

coming months, if they are even able to attend

one at all.

The daily drop-in is an example of open-access

youth work, which Robertson (2005) describes

as provision that a young person may access

regardless of their background, needs or

position in society. This kind of youth work was

already under threat. A decade of cuts and

closures have whittled away at funding streams,

and the majority of youth centres across the

country have been forced to shut. Given the

challenges of quantifying or measuring the

outcomes of open access youth work, there has

been a move across the board towards more

project-focused youth work with specific targets

and aims. Open youth club style provisions,

which have been the mainstay of youth work

since the Albermarle Report in 1960, are

becoming a thing of the past.

We are therefore at a critical moment. We

need to shout from the rooftops – now

more than ever – about how important and

transformational open access youth work can be

for young people. I have recently collaborated

on a rapid evidence review with the aim of

capturing the available evidence about the

impact of open access youth work. Across the

49 studies I reviewed, seven categories of

impact emerged: society, personal development,

relationships, employment and education, a safe

place to be, skills development and health and

wellbeing. There were also ten key factors that

facilitated or created the environment for these

impacts to occur:

1. Relationships: positive relationships with

youth workers

2. A safe place to be: a welcoming place to

belong and to get away from home

3. Long-term work: consistent relationships built

over time

4. Stimulating activities: opportunities flexible to

young people’s interests

5. Place-based youth workers: youth workers

being from the same socio-economic

background as the young people

6. Openness: free of charge and a place from

which you will not be excluded

7. Flexibility: starting where young people are

‘at’

8. Autonomy: involving young people in

decision-making processes

9. Joined-up approach: working in collaboration

with other services

10. Boundaries: having clear expectations

enforced by youth leaders and young people

Many youth workers are trying to translate these

principles into other forms of engagement, but

the research suggests that there will always be

something uniquely powerful about open access

youth work. We can’t control the lockdown. But

we can decide what to prioritise in the weeks

and months to come. Wherever possible, let’s

speak up for open access youth work, so that it

remains available in future for the young people

who need it.

You can read the full report – Open Access

Youth Work: A Narrative Review of Impact – at:

partnershipforyounglondon.org.uk/publications

P.3


BIG PICTURE

Three themes from Z-A of faith and spirituality

Dr Lucie Shuker

Youth for Christ have released the

final report in their research trilogy,

which explores faith and spirituality

in the lives of 1001 11-18 year olds

across the UK. The report has lots

of fascinating stats and helpful

commentary, so we’ve just pulled out

three themes to whet your appetite.

Together these reports have given

us some fantastic new evidence

that helps us understand the young

people we work with.

1. I don’t know

When it comes to God, faith and spirituality,

lots of young people just aren’t sure what

they think. Here are some of the big

questions to which the number one response

from young people was ‘I don’t know’. 1

Do you believe in any form of supernatural

being or power greater than yourself? 2

YES 51%

How would you describe that being/power?

I DON’T KNOW 28%

NO 51%

What makes it hard for you to believe?

I DON’T KNOW 29%

What might convince you that God exists?

I DON’T KNOW 37%

If you could ask God one question what

would it be?

I DON’T KNOW 30% 3

How do you view church?

I DON’T KNOW 34%

Although it might seem strange to highlight

these responses, I think we should pay

attention to this. Other studies have

suggested that religious faith is not present

in the foreground of young people’s mind,

culture and experience, and yet 65% of

young people in the survey said they thought

about God and spirituality at least once a

month and 46% at least once a week. If

they are thinking about God, it appears that

lots of young people aren’t coming to any

conclusions and need a story to react to, or a

structure to hang their thoughts on and make

sense of it all.

2. God loves me, but Jesus

might not be real

What do you think God thinks or feels

about you? (top five)

1. HE DOESN’T THINK OF ME 27%

/ HE LOVES ME 27%

2. I HAVE VALUE 20%

3. I DON’T KNOW 19%

4. HE LIKES ME 16%

5. HE’S INTERESTED IN ME 15%

P.4


How would you describe God’s character in

3 words? (top five)

1. POWERFUL

2. KIND

3. LOVING

4. CARING

5. GOOD

It’s been quite a while since researchers

Smith and Denton gave us the term

‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’, a spiritual

worldview in which God is a benign but

absent presence who wants us to be

nice to each other. These stats reflect the

‘therapeutic’ element of this worldview

but suggest that God is also perceived as

actively warm and interested in many young

people’s lives. This is particularly interesting

in light of the fact that only 53% thought

Jesus was a real historical person and of

these, only 25% thought he was God. God

may be culturally rehabilitated from the

idea of an angry old man in the sky, but that

doesn’t mean teenagers understand His love

as having anything to do with Jesus.

3. I haven’t had a spiritual

experience

There were only two questions where over

three-quarters of young people responded

the same way, and they both related to direct

spiritual experience, rather than belief.

Have you ever had a spiritual experience?

YES 11%

NO 78%

DON’T KNOW 11%

Have you ever heard God/a supernatural

power speak to you?

YES 6%

NO 87%

DON’T KNOW 7%

It’s fascinating that so few young people

perceive themselves to have had a spiritual

experience. This reflects the squarely

secular culture most teenagers inhabit,

where innate ‘formative’ spirituality is

rarely acknowledged, let alone becoming

‘transformative’ spirituality. It may also reflect

an association of the word ‘spiritual’ with

ghosts and the paranormal in the research.

In our ‘No Questions Asked’ research, young

people often didn’t know what the word

‘spiritual’ meant, and it was only through the

interview itself that some recognised this

dimension of their experience for the first

time. Our more recent report ‘We do God’

picked up the same theme, emphasising

the missional role of inviting young people

to experience God and making spaces for

reflection so that they are able to make

sense of those experiences too.

To get into the stats yourself, visit

yfc.co.uk/faithandspirituality

1. Answers were split across lots of different responses (including those in young peoples’ own words) which is why

these percentages seem small.

2. The other 17% said ‘I don’t know’

3. This was followed a range of questions around suffering and evil, which if grouped together would add up to 37%

making it a very significant theme, which is discussed in the report.

P.5


NEW RESEARCH

The latest on young people and COVID-19

There have been lots of surveys

done over the last few months

that explore young people’s

experiences of the pandemic. Here

we share highlights from research

published since May. 1

Many have coped well and had some

positive experiences.

The majority of young people appear to

have coped relatively well with lockdown,

although find not seeing family and friends

most difficult (see chart below). 2

Extent to which children (aged 10 to 17) feel they are coping with Coronavirus changes.

84%

OVERALL 9% 7%

experienced gratitude. 2 participating children and young people. 5

INCREASED HANDWASHING 9% 8%

86%

SOCIAL DISTANCING

13% 9%

78%

EXAMS BEING CANCELLED

16%

16%

68%

SOCIALLY ISOLATING

17%

14%

69%

DOING SCHOOL/COLLEGE WORK AT HOME

18% 12%

70%

SCHOOLS/COLLEGES CLOSING

18% 12%

70%

TOUCHING FACE LESS OFTEN

21%

17%

62%

NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE FAMILY

30%

15%

54%

NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE FRIENDS

37%

14%

49%

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Most young people in one survey of 13-24

year olds (n=2002) reported enjoying time

with parents as much or more than before,

“It has made me appreciate things a lot

more.”

– Male, 14 in The Children’s Society report

though they also worried about parents and

the family more than before 3 . More than

one in three 16-24 year olds surveyed by

Prince’s Trust (37%) believe they have gained

Although many young people have coped

well, a significant proportion have struggled

with their mental health and wellbeing.

coping skills or emotional resilience since the

outbreak of coronavirus, 4 and a consultation

with 150 children and young people found

they have valued time to reflect, learn

new hobbies or restart old ones, and have

A representative survey of 4000 8-24 year

olds in Great Britain by Barnardo’s found a

rise in issues related to mental health and

wellbeing for at least one in three of the

P.6

% SCORING BELOW MIDPOINT % SCORING ON MIDPOINT % SCORING ABOVE MIDPOINT


• 41% said they feel more lonely than

before lockdown

• 38% said they feel more worried

• 37% said they feel more sad

• 34% said they feel more stressed

• 33% said they have more trouble sleeping

Top three feelings experienced during

lockdown:

BOREDOM 51%

WORRY 28%

FEELING TRAPPED 26%

“It has made me realise that the future is

more unpredictable than I thought. I do not

know what will go on in the future, so I am

going to value what I have now.”

– Male, 13 in The Children’s Society report

In one study, young people reported a

significant increase in anxiety as a result of

the pandemic, with anxiety rising with age

(see chart below). 3 There are also some

groups of young people that seem to be

struggling more. Across surveys published

to date there is some evidence to suggest

that older teenagers, girls, those from black

and minority ethnic backgrounds, those not

in education, employment or training and

those already struggling with poorer mental

health are impacted in particular ways by the

pandemic. Although we need more robust

data, we should expect that social inequality

of various kinds will be exacerbated by

current circumstances.

Key recommendations for youth workers on

the basis of current evidence are:

• Take an age appropriate approach

• Signpost to quality information

• Facilitate young people helping others

• Target support to those with known mental

health challenges

• Promote time outdoors

• Celebrate new skills and coping

mechanisms

• Help young people learn how to manage

uncertainty

Felt anxious

NOT AT ALL LESS THAN BEFORE ABOUT THE SAME MORE THAN BEFORE

% OF RESPONDENTS

60

40

20

0

13-15 16–18 19–21 22–24

1. One of the significant challenges of reporting on COVID-related research is that the conditions in which studies were

done change quickly so we need to be cautious in applying the findings. 2. The Children’s Society - Life on Hold:

Children’s Well-being and COVID-19 July 2020. N=2000, weighted to be representative of the UK. 3. Levita, L (2020)

COVID-19 psychological research consortium (C19PRC). Initial research findings on the impact of COVID-19 on the

well-being of young people aged 13 to 24 in the UK. N=2002 13-24 year olds, Survey ran 21-29th April 2020. 4. Young

People in Lockdown: A report by The Prince’s Trust and YouGov. 5. Barnardo’s Big Conversation Survey – YouGov.

May 2020. N=4,283. weighted to be representative of the UK.

P.7


YOUTH WORK DIAGRAMS

Online conferences and festivals

Would you rather..?

A Queue for the loo

B Queue to get into the Zoom waiting room

A Worship shoulder to shoulder with

hundreds of people

B Worship with your cat watching you and

slightly judging you

A Watch the speaker’s face on the big screen

plus their tiny body on a stage

B Watch your own face watching your own face

A Eat beans out of a can with a spork

B Eat your favourite take-away deliveroo’d

to your sofa

A

B

QUEUE

WATCH

WORSHIP

EAT

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%

For more #youthworkdiagrams follow us on Twitter @YWresearch

hello@youthscape.co.uk / 01582 877220

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Registered charity no. 1081754. Registered company no. 3939801 registered

in England, a company limited by guarantee.

P.8

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