REBOOT digitally adapts to Coronavirus ‘lockdown’
REBOOT has supported 861 vulnerable young people since April last year and has no intention of stopping this support during the Covid-19 ‘lockdown’. The challenge of isolation and social distancing is hitting young people the hardest and, with the NSPCC labelling this situation a ‘perfect storm’ for online grooming and exploitation, it’s more important than ever that our young people receive structured guidance through this crisis.
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has digitally adapted the REBOOT programme to ensure that young people coming to the attention of the police continue to receive vital early intervention.
Before, Police Community Support Officers would visit the home of the family and REBOOT coaches would offer 1-1 personalised support. However, all face-to-face support in people’s homes and community settings has been temporarily suspended. So, REBOOT is now engaging with young people and their families solely via telephone, video conferencing and online activities.
Operational Policing Lead for REBOOT, Sergeant Kate Blackbourn commented: “Much of the technology we are only now tapping into as professionals has been around for a while and is routinely used by young people to communicate as part of their daily lives. This is an opportunity for us to bring policing into this virtual space.
“The necessary measures that have been put in place to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus, greatly reduce the structure that was in place for so many young people and is likely to have a significant and lasting effect on them. We therefore need to do all that we can to mitigate this.”
The PCC has made it clear, that just because we are in ‘lockdown’ does not mean that criminals are staying at home. She warns that this crisis could amplify crimes like County Lines, now that many children will be living in difficult situations at home, without social interaction or support during the day at school, and spending most of their time online.
In February of this year there were believed to be 84 active county lines operating across Sussex with 2,000 nationally. Children as young as seven have been linked to this form of drug-dealing, with many ‘recruited’ online via social media.
Mrs Bourne said: “What REBOOT has taught us so far is that young people thrive in structured, positive and encouraging environments, which we know many across Sussex may not have at home.
“There is a concern from police and partners that this crisis could not only limit the development of these children significantly but also that it could make those already vulnerable, even more susceptible to exploitation from criminals who seek to benefit from this pandemic.
“The social constraints of the Covid-19 situation provide us with a unique opportunity to challenge ourselves to communicate in different ways. I’m determined to tap into our digital resources and do everything I can to ensure that critical support and guidance is still available for vulnerable young people and their families.”
Carl, a REBOOT coach, is still engaging with young people via video chat and has prepared a structured personalised plan for them all to see them through isolation.
He says: “Even though we are in lockdown there are still young people out there who need our help. Yes, things have had to change in the way we have contact with them, but the fact that we are still able to give effective support over the phone or video calls shows how unique REBOOT is.
“The personalised plan I have developed makes sure that the young people I work with have structure to their days in isolation and an understanding of the current crisis and how they can play their part by staying at home. We are also currently working with partners like Active Sussex to provide them with links to different activities that they can do from home to stay fit and healthy. This will be a welcome distraction for many of them who are struggling with the social distancing measures in place.”
Cara (name has been changed) is a 14-year-old girl from East Sussex who was referred to REBOOT by her Early Help Key Worker. She has been known to get into fights in school and has anger-management issues. Before the ‘lockdown’ she would be found by local Police Community Support Officers with an older peer group hanging around in anti-social behaviour ‘hot spots’ in her town centre. Many young people gather in this area to drink and sometimes take drugs.
Referred to the programme only a number of weeks ago, she has only ever received coaching from Carl via video chat. She explains how this intervention has allowed her to cope with the crisis and helped her stay out of trouble.
She said: “It’s difficult not being able to go out when I want to, and I know that some people are not sticking to the rules. Before lockdown I used to be out all the time and I didn’t really have much of a relationship with my family. The lockdown has actually brought us closer together, with Carl’s help.
“Video chat means I can still talk to Carl every day, especially when I’m struggling. We talk about my plan and it really makes me think about things which sometimes is hard, but I know that it’s helping me.
“Social media is a big part of this lockdown, it’s the only way me and my friends are communicating but Carl talks to me about how to keep myself safe.
“If I’m being completely honest, I think that without REBOOT I still would be going out when I’m not supposed to, some people did contact me at first to try and make me break the rules but I said no.”
The PCC has also made funds available through REBOOT to encourage sports and fitness in gardens by providing skipping ropes, swingballs, boxing bags and various other items so that young people can keep fit and busy during this time period.
REBOOT is continuing to take on new referrals during this time and have increased the current caseloads to help provide support to as many young people as possible.
Notes for editors
A video has been produced by the REBOOT team showcasing what a digital coaching session now looks like between a coach and young person. The young person in this video has been anonymised. https://youtu.be/ijDCkhOPaJM
If you would like to interview the PCC or one of the REBOOT coaches contact: Natalie.firstname.lastname@example.org