22 May 2020

We’re running a series of blogs from our members of staff who are continuing to work with vulnerable children and young people during the current COVID-19 crisis. Some staff are working directly with young people in our frontline housing services and others are continuing their vital work virtually.

Next in the series is Natalie, a Housing Support Worker working directly with young residents at YMCA Hillbrook House, our supported accommodation centre. She tells her story, in her own words:

What’s your job and how long have you worked for YMCA East Surrey?
I joined YMCA East Surrey on 1 October 2019 as a Housing Support Worker.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I enjoy the daily interactions with residents. My job involves supporting their needs and running activities to encourage learning opportunities through one-to-one support sessions and group sessions. Recently we’ve been encouraging residents to talk about their feelings whilst in lockdown. The best thing is watching a resident grow, learn, develop and move to independence.

How has your job changed under lockdown?
Our group activities have been limited. We have to stay in the building as much as possible, which can be challenging for young residents. Our team help to keep them safe and educate them about social distancing, washing hands, using masks, no visitors, using sanitiser and no physical contact with each other. We try and keep up activities for residents whilst socially distancing.

What are the new challenges that the young people you work with are facing and how are these being overcome
Young people struggle with being isolated from family and friends. Our residents have limited areas to access as they can’t go into other residents’ rooms. We do our best to encourage residents to get their exercise and to go shopping in a safe manner so they can get out where possible.

Our priority is to protect residents and staff, and whilst these means we can’t allow visitors at this time, we check in with young residents daily to make sure they are okay and have someone to talk to.

Have you had any particularly memorable moments at work since lockdown began?
We tried to be creative in how we can engage with residents to give them a focus and alleviate boredom. We’ve run some socially distanced activities outside to help break up their day and allow young people to socialise safely.

I’ve had some very important one-to-one support sessions with residents talking about anxiety, low mood, depression, friendships and keeping safe.

What advice would you give to young people during the lockdown?
To keep safe, to keep to government guidelines. To talk about their feelings and ask for help/support when needed. For residents, I really encourage them to come and talk to us if they are feeling low.

I love my job and providing daily support to residents. These times are hard but working together as a team I know we can come through them.