I send this blog from home, like many of you I am working remotely and only going into the office on my allocated day. While working remotely is not new, it is the essence of detached work. The doing every meeting via a screen and the absence of a warm coat and boats is not however.
Over the past two month, I have had a crash course in the various virtual meeting platforms, and while I am not expert, I think I can identify the pros and cons of most. I have updated our social media policy, risk assessment and user guidance on an almost weekly and sometime daily basis. I am immensely grateful to the generosity of the Sector for sharing their evolving polices. As we learn more, experiment more, identify new opportunities, we will continue to revise practice.
The challenges have not only come from my limited IT skills, but how do you stay in touch with young people who have no or limited access to the internet. Either they don’t have equipment (phones, tablets, laptops), or the wifi / data to engage. Add to this, the concerns over using IT / social media, with the added confusion of age requirements to either download, sign contracts, or just use, resulting in some organisations banning all non-work type planforms. Although these are aimed at the over 16. The trouble is, its not only young people who don’t have appropriate equipment at home (who knew workers would need IT access at home), or that some of these work platforms, Teams, Skype for Business, etc require the down load of an app or software, or have a particular internet driver, which when using equipment with limited memory or data, doesn’t work either. So, we have a group of workers unable to access support from the sector, a group of young people unable to access support from the sector and another group caught in the middle, with access but no young people to work with or young people with access but no youth workers.
There are schemes a foot to provide young people with both equipment and 3g. I hope the same is being rolled out across the youth sector. The question will remain however, which platform – google hangouts, WebX, zoom, whatapp, teams, skype, blue jeans …… ? perhaps the answer should be, to quell the fears of IT departments across the county, a UK developed platform that meets European GDPR, cyber security, safeguarding, doesn’t need an app download, and does what youth workers and schools need it to.
We have embraced online working, recognising the benefits it has brought and many of us can see its use going forward, especially those of us in rural heartlands, to supplement but not replace face to face work. In the meantime, however, perhaps we should ask young people, and let them work with IT departments to find workable solutions, each hearing the concerns of the other.