Marine Society and Sea Cadets Head of Policy and Insight discusses the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the uniformed youth sector
The outbreak of Covid-19 across the world has meant a sense of community has never been more important. The work of the Marine Society and Sea Cadets serves to emphasize this, working with 15,000 sea cadets in any given year, across 400 different units nationwide. Andrew Weston, the charity’s Head of Policy and Insight, offers his thoughts on the current situation.
Weston notes: “Prior to the crisis, some 1.4 million young people were actively engaged with uniformed open access youth work such as cadet forces and scout groups. The loss of this positive face to face impact on their well-being and personal development, combined with one of the most stressed and difficult periods of their lives, risks significant harm.”
The social impact of Covid-19 has been extensively discussed, with a report written by the government on Thursday which indicated that over half of adults believe the pandemic has impacted their wellbeing.
MSSC thinks the youth sector can serve to alleviate some of the pressures felt by the government going forward. It believes it is important that the youth sector, and government work together to ensure this vital work with young people is financially sustainable during the crisis and to develop plans for how to best support more young people as the shutdown comes to an end.
The National Youth Agency, and the UK Youth, have already published guidance on coping with the coronavirus pandemic, in which they explore the importance of staying connected and stress management, both issues MSSC also considers to be important. Weston states that it is essential that “the youth sector is supported to continue to respond during the shutdown and is ready to engage even more young people, providing them with a safe environment where they can thrive.”
MSSC is acutely aware of the new challenges they face as a result of the pandemic, and has responded by developing a new Virtual Sea Cadets digital offer. Weston reports “Virtual Sea Cadets, developed within days, provides a means for our 9,000 amazing volunteers to deliver much of the structured activity on offer for our 15,000 young people remotely and for them to continue to feel a part of their organisation and to progress.”
Weston concludes, voicing his concern for the future of the volunteer sector. He considers: “MSSC, and others like us, provide the structure and framework to ensure appropriate safeguarding, safety assurance, standards of delivery and support for our volunteers to deliver a consistent and effective service to our young people. Our delivery also relies absolutely on local volunteers running local Sea Cadet units in communities across the UK.
“It is essential for government to look to work with federated youth organisations such as ourselves, to ensure clear and decisive support and guidance to ensure these vital national frameworks and their on the ground local networks can survive this crisis.”