For any young person trying to keep safe during the current COVID-19 crisis, it must be extremely difficult, confusing and challenging. Pressure on their health, work and social life and mental wellbeing from isolation with less of the normal support mechanisms any longer in place. These include safeguarding and mental health support such as at school, college, sports and mentoring to help. Scenes of anger abroad in the United States and elsewhere are causing further concern for young people in the West Midlands.

Therefore, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, working closely with West Midlands Police and the Violence Reduction Unit, has commissioned three community-based organisations to reach out, communicate, engage and give feedback from our local young people. Their mission is to support and help targeted and vulnerable young people through this transitional period from confinement. Yet at the same time, ensure they fully understand and comply with restrictions and thereby avoid further risk of spreading the COVID-19 disease.

The three West Midlands-based companies chosen to carry out this vital work are Aspire4u, That’s All Media, and Beatfreeks. All three companies have established and exceptional knowledge and contacts for connecting and communicating with local young people.

Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Waheed Saleem, said:

“These organisations will offer feedback and ensure the voice and concerns of our young people is heard. We want them to know we are here to help and protect them, keep them safe and avoid conflict situations.

“Our work is challenging. We are aware for some young people who are complying, home may not be a safe place and they need protecting. Then there are those whose mental health has been affected by the pandemic restrictions, or are vulnerable. We want to ensure they have all the access they need for information, mental health support helplines and any other help and support they might need. These organisations will help us do that.

“Contact will be made through Facebook, Twitter, non-mainstream social media platforms including podcasts, YouTube and other outlets. This is a very fluid situation where some young people are being encouraged to return to school while others stay at home.

“Communication is a two-way process and I want us all to learn about the impact isolation has had on our young people and how they have coped and how further help can be given. Therefore, it is vital to ensure detailed and constructive research is undertaken to understand the problems our young people are facing and we how and where we put policies and resources in place to ensure their safety and wellbeing is considered further from here on.”

Kit Showande, Director Aspire 4u CIC said;

“Unprecedented times call for new ways of thinking and doing things. We’re leading an innovative response to safer communities going through Covid 19 restrictions and challenges. Through strong media and community collaboration – we’re coordinating positive thoughtful messages alongside young people with lived experience of youth violence and making them central in reaching peers. Our aim is to develop a culturally contextual approach to community communications – meaning we must reach people with tailored messages appropriate to the sub-cultures on each social media channel.”

Jenna Varndell, Director That’s all media, said:

“Make no mistake this is a ground breaking approach on inclusive responses to current and future issues. As a Handsworth based owner of a social enterprise supporting campaigns and campaigners, healthy conversations matter to me. We’re pleased to be leading a fast paced campaign to help support public health and mindful regard for each other. We’re building this campaign with young people from all over the West Midlands who will be part of the communications and social media content creation behind the scenes.”

Amy Clamp General Manager at Beatfreeks said:

“We work extremely closely with young people of all backgrounds across the region and as an organisation, appreciate the difficulties and frustrations young people and their families have faced with lockdown. We look forward to continuing and expanding our engagement to ensure our young people continue to remain safe, well and supported.”

To support this, the PCC has published resources to support young people and the organisations who support them too https://www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk/covid-19-and-young-people/

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