A project, set up in response to Covid-19, is working to ensure young people leaving care amid the pandemic are not disproportionately affected by social isolation as they transition into their own homes.

Set up and run by child and young person charity Kibble, and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Connect 19 is addressing social isolation and mental health concerns for young people leaving care across Scotland through mentoring, arranged activities and a networking service.

Throughout the pandemic a lot of social interaction has been through virtual platforms such as Zoom and Skype, however young people leaving care wont always have access to Wi-Fi or a device to use such platforms. The Connect 19 project is also providing the technology required for young people, ensuring they can remain connected and can utilise online courses.

The team have been liaising with social work departments across Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, North, South and East Ayrshire, and East and West Dunbartonshire to identify young people who may need support.

Photo: Completed Nutella cheesecake by young person

Once the team have set the young people up with the technology required, they can access regular activities online such as baking, cooking, self-care evenings and get fit videos, while socially distanced outdoor activities such as walks, fishing or gardening have also been put in place. Where cooking or baking is involved, a box of ingredients is delivered to the young person to ensure they can participate, with healthy eating promoted throughout.

Additionally, practical life admin is also on offer to help young people settle into independent living, covering subjects such as benefit entitlement, debt management, legal issues, and housing and welfare. The team are also helping the young people with setting up further education courses and how to access them virtually, while helping the young people understand lockdown rules, keeping safe online and general wellbeing.

Services also include 1:1 and group mental health support delivered by trained youth counsellors and practitioners offered virtually and in person, while regular video group calls are set up for young people as part of the befriending and mentoring service available.

Sandra Guiney, project manager for Kibble’s Connect 19, said “Ahead of the pandemic when young people were leaving care, there were groups in place and social activities for them to take part in, ensuring that they weren’t left isolated. Now that a great deal of our lives has moved online, it’s important that we’ve got the support in place to remove barriers for young people to access socialisation, support and advice.

“Through the Connect 19 project, we’re thrilled to be able to help young people make the transition into independent living, supporting them through this next stage which can often be very daunting.”