Blackburn Youth Zone has been featured on ITV to highlight the needs of local children and young people during the COVID-19 crisis.

Blackburn Youth Zone has been featured on ITV to highlight the needs of local children and young people during the COVID-19 crisis.

Young people who have benefitted from the services of the organisation were interviewed by the ITV Tonight programme in late June, and the show was aired on Thursday 16 July.

When the Covid-19 crisis hit in March 2020 Blackburn Youth Zone adapted quickly to support 858 young people throughout the crisis.

The television interviews were co-ordinated by Youth Zone’s Head of Operations Leon Crosby and took place in Mill Hill, and Audley Range in Blackburn. The interviews focused on how Blackburn Youth Zone has supported young people through the pandemic, focusing on mental health and well being.

“If we don’t wake up and start listening to young people’s experiences, young people potentially will be suffering for generations,” said Leon Crosby in the programme.

OnSide Youth Zones Chief Executive Kathryn Morley said: “The Tonight programme shone a much-needed light on the devastating effect COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown has had on young people. We are so proud of the incredible impact Blackburn Youth Zone has made during this time, they have been there for young people – and the wider community – when they have needed them more than ever.

One of the core values of Youth Zones across the OnSide network is to put young people first. As Leon said so perfectly on the programme, we must listen to them and hear their experiences to help them build the futures they deserve.”

One of the young people featured, Paige Heighway, enjoyed beaing featured on national TV.

“It was fun being interviewed. I enjoyed talking about my lockdown experience. The interview was conducted with me being spoken to by a member of youth zone staff, and also being filmed. It really helped that I as interviewed by someone I know, rather than a full film crew.”

Paige was also thankful to Blackburn Youth Zone.

“The youth zone has helped me with my bad days where I don’t want to do anything, it helped me forget about lockdown and gave me something to look forward to. When the youth zone activities are on, I wake up excited.

“Being in lockdown has been hard. My mum is shielding so I have to stay in doors to keep her safe. The online activities have helped me see my friends and stay positive.

In particular, the digital mentoring has been really good, me and my mentor have been doing loads of creative activities and she helps me talk about all my highs and lows. I can’t wait to see her in person and she is always friendly and offers me advice. I cant wait for the youth zone to reopen.. I will be there before the staff!”

There has been an increase in demand for Youth Zone’s services due to the pandemic, with young people needing them now more than ever. Concerns relating to mental health, emotional well-being, social isolation, concerns within the home (toxic trio of substance misuse, neglect and abuse) have also been highlighted by members and parents.

Blackburn Youth Zone has supported 303 young people through targeted youth support via their ‘Internet Youth Club’ and a average of 555 young people have engaged with the ‘Youth Zone at Home’ programme on social media.

The organisation also spoke to 354 young people during May, through phone calls, social media surveys and Zoom youth club sessions, 67% of young people stated they had struggled through the crisis and had benefited from the support BYZ has provided them.

The youth zone has worked with local partners such as Blackburn Young People’s Services in the distribution of 10,120 meals to members of the community in need during the Covid-19 crisis.

During Ramadan a community Iftar (opening of the fast) took place where over 70 people from different backgrounds came together to share an Iftar video call in an ambitious project led by Blackburn Youth Zone and supported by the BwD Strategic Youth Alliance. The Big Iftar event, was arranged with the help of the Youth Ambassadors and Community Ambassadors, both projects delivered through the Council’s community cohesion initiative. The Big Iftar event delivered meals to 500 households.

Link to BYZ ITV apperance: https://www.itv.com/hub/tonight/1a9757a0104 (14 minutes in)