When people think of digital exclusion, they normally associate this issue with older people. However, our recent conversation with Stephen Griffith Project Director from Copenhagen Youth Project (CYP) highlights the digital exclusion experienced by young people mainly from the Caledonian and Barnsbury Wards of Islington.  

Help on Your Doorstep worked in partnership with the St Mary’s Youth Project on a film project pre lockdown. “from my previous experience Help on Your Doorstep have a good approach to planning consultations” said Stephen. 

Pockets of poverty in between the affluence  

Copenhagen Youth project provides a safe, caring, youth-led space for disadvantaged young people where they can learn, develop and build towards a brighter future.  

Most of their beneficiaries come from the Caledonian and Barnsbury ward. This area contains six pockets of poverty which are amongst the 20% most deprived areas nationally and lay between the relatively affluent areas of the new Kings Cross Central Development and the leafy roads of Barnsbury 

They currently work with roughly 350 young peopleStephen explainted that the young people they work with broadly fall into three groups:  

  1. 30% are children and young people who are engaged in criminal activity and/or anti-social behaviour.They are mostly not in employment, education or training (NEET).  
  1. 50% are children and young people who may or may not be in education, employment or training but are ultimately unsure of their future.  
  1. 20% are children and young people who are motivated with high aspirations, enthusiasm, and a desire to progress through education, training and employment.  

We caught up with Stephento find out how lockdown has affected the young people he works with. 

Not all young people are online  

“Lockdown has affected the young people that we work with differently. For those who are motivated and have high aspirations it has taken little encouragement for them to   use this time to progress their enterprises. They have used this time to think about personal, project and business development, this has included participating in workshops, producing music, producing content and planning new online activity. They really have seen this as an opportunity.  

Some of the young people with more unsure futures have also managed to engage positively with online resources. They are not interested in taking part in online sessions but use the sessions as inspiration to go off and do their own thing.  

We very quickly realised that the young people that we work with who are engaged with criminal activity and anti-social behaviour were not about to suddenly engage with positive online materials. Some of these young people were digitally excluded because they did not have access to technology. We worked with Small Green Shoots another local charity to remove this barrier to digital engagement, but for some this was not enough to enable them to get online.  

Digital exclusion for young people living in pockets of poverty 

There needs to be enough money within the household to pay for an internet connection- not all the families of the young people we work with will be able to afford this. You need a certain amount of literacy to be able to use google, set up social media profiles or use YouTube. A high number of CYP members have learning needs which are not diagnosed.  

Those who can get online were much more likely to be viewing social media platforms which are used almost habitually and unfortunately are too often used to re-enforce negative behaviours. Although there was a dip in crime at the start of lockdown, our suspicion that this was because it was harder for young people to engage in criminal activity/anti-social behaviour as there were less people about.  

These young people need to be able to engage in face to face activities. Some benefit from the routine of knowing that on a particular day at a particular time they will be doing a particular activity. Whilst others like the flexibility of being able to ‘drop in’.  

Many funders were rightly looking at initiatives to meet the needs of those who were most likely to struggle during the lockdown the CYP outreach project was seen as one of these initiatives and received funding enabling further resources and support to this cohort of young people.  

Youthwork as lockdown eases- it's all about the bubble 

The youth centre is slowly re-opening as lockdown is easing, running a summer programme, where young people have been assigned their own “bubble” meaning they will only ever be mingling in the same group with the same youth workers. 

There has been a couple of exciting developments for CYP during this period.Partnerships with the Wellcome Collection and a music collective these have resulted in a project named ‘What it means to be human during Covid’ and the re-design and build of the CYP music studio.  We are also very thankful for funding from some new and old funders throughout the crisis including: The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Islington Giving, Youth Music, Sport England and the London Community Response Fund. 

If you want to know more about Copenhagen youth project’s services click through to their website.