CYM Blog

8 March 2021

From Isolation to Community

As we approach the one year on marker from when Covid19 really made its presence felt here in the UK, it’s natural to look back and reflect on what has happened. How were those first few months of lockdown 1 for you? Did you make significant changes to your youth work practice right away or did you, like many of us, walk around in a daze trying to work out how to do youth work when all the young people were staying at home?

I was curious to know what had been happening in youth work across the UK during 2020 so I spoke to a number of youth workers, from varied contexts, to find out. And I was amazed at the range of responses. Yes, there were those whose experience echoed my own sense of confusion, frustration and utter desolation initially. There were also those who jumped right in to a different way of working, including delivering food or wellbeing packages, creating online groups via Zoom or other video calling platforms. If it felt like the whole world was on Zoom, that’s because they were! User figures jumped from 10 million in Dec 2019 to 300 million in April 2020 and ‘zooming’ became the new verb for being online, regardless of which platform was used.

Across the youth work world there has been a mixed response to zoom, some young people have really engaged, particularly during the times when they can’t see each other, also especially if they have difficulties around accessibility of in-person groups. Others have rejected it almost entirely, as a platform that adults use for adult conversation, and since when have young people embraced anything that adults want them to do?

In the book the different chapters cover the different contexts for youth work happening in the UK. I spoke to people in Church-based youth ministry roles, people leading Christian value based charities, others working for youth work charities which are non-faith based, those from uniformed organisations, detached youth work organisations, and schools work. It was a great way of capturing a snapshot of what has been happening, and to begin to think about what needs to come next.

As we pass the one year mark and begin to emerge from lockdown number 3 in the UK, we youth workers need to start considering what kind of a world we want to rebuild with our young people. What are the things we’ve learned in the past year which are going to help in the future?  Which activities are we going to be able to continue and which need changing or tweaking again?

A lot of people I spoke to expressed frustration with making plans in September time only to have to drastically alter or ditch them altogether due to the local lockdown approach of the central UK government but also the different rules in the four home nations. It was a chaotic term, so what can we learn from this? To plan or not to plan, is that the question?

Come to the CYM Professional Development Day on Wed 17th March to hear more from me about my book From Isolation to Community: Youth Work in the Covid Era and Beyond” and take part in the discussion about the future of youth work in the UK.


Specialist Subject Tutor – CYM 


Jenni Osborn is an author, trainer and mentor of youth workers. You can buy her book in Kindle format on Amazon or in paperback from her direct on [email protected]. More information visit

Above: Jenni Osborn with her book.

Jenni  will be delivering the CYM Professional Development Day on this important topic.  Book today.