Plymouth charity Barefoot was founded in 1996, but since 2013 has been providing critical support to young people in disadvantaged areas of the city, plugging the gap left when other facilities have been forced to close due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Charity Director Richard Marsh said: “Barefoot initially started as an arts-based charity, but since switching to youth work we’ve increasingly realised how much young people need the support of dedicated professional youth workers; adults who they can trust and confide in.”
“There’s a tendency to demonise teenagers and forget how hard it is to make the transition from child to adult. Now times are even tougher, young people in the areas where we work, more disadvantaged areas of the city, desperately need support, advice and opportunities to develop confidence and have fun.”
During the first lockdown youth workers kept in touch with young people in Ernesettle, Whitleigh and St Budeaux/Kings Tamerton by providing
support online. During the second, new government guidance has allowed them to keep in contact out on the streets, or indoors for small, high needs groups.
14 year old Keira said: “It’s kept me sane. I couldn’t concentrate on my school work at home, so I came here instead.”
“You don’t know how important something like this is – it’s fun, it helps you interact with other people and you can tell the youth workers literally anything that’s bothering you. It’s really good to let out the stuff you’re going through instead of keeping it all inside.”
15 year old Alisha said: “The staff kept in contact – in lockdown not many people had good mental health, but to the staff our mental health is important, so they’d check up on us, make sure we didn’t need anything. Especially in lockdown, when mum and dad were working, I was at home, so if I wanted someone to talk to I could just message the youth workers. It’s nice.”
Barefoot have also used time during lockdown to rebrand, to reflect their work with
young people and improve communications.
Barefoot is currently supporting Plymouth City Council and the police in St Budeaux and will get back to giving young people the chance to take part in activities such as outdoor adventure, music and go-karting as soon as Covid guidelines allow, with the aim of getting young people to believe in themselves, feel safe and take control of their futures.