Coronavirus: ‘It’s the hidden faces we worry about’

Ferrywell Youth ProjectImage copyright
Ferrywell Youth Project

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The Ferrywell Youth Project covers the Muirhouse and Pilton estates

Jane Hurst says she loves the “wee maladjusted family” of 100 children that she watches over on two neighbouring estates in Edinburgh.

The 42-year-old project support worker knows all the children on the Muirhouse and Pilton estates by name, and likes to be there for them when they need help and support.

The youngsters, aged between 10 and 18, can usually drop into the Ferrywell Youth Project office, which borders both estates, at any time to see her and her two colleagues for a chat, a hug and something to eat.

But since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, the children have not been allowed to meet Jane or the other youth workers.

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Ferrywell Youth Project

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Jane Hurst retrained as a youth worker three years ago

“Normally if they are missing out on a caring adult they can come for a hug, or if they are not getting on with someone in their houses, or if they are hungry, they come to see us,” she said.

“If they are really struggling they can be physically comforted and be helped when they come to see us.

“Now they are going without these things.”

Jane said they had set up Facebook and WhatsApp groups so the children could talk about any problems they are having at home during the lockdown.

These groups also contain adult volunteers, and the rules mean Jane and her colleagues cannot text or contact a child online on their own.

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Ferrywell Youth Project

There are also age limits for using these platforms, which has meant that they have been unable to have any contact with some of the younger children.

“It’s frustrating that the younger ones cannot get in touch with us. This situation has never happened to us before,” she explained.

“We can phone a parent and support them and hope then they will support their child, but we cannot contact the children.

“It’s been very tough not being able to check on them. It’s these hidden faces, of whom there are about 30, that we worry about.”

Jane said it was important that children knew they had someone they could reach out to.

“We’ve heard there are some kids coping really well, but we know that there will be some really difficult situations and it’s those ones that are hard to support and get hold of.”

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Ferrywell Youth Project

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The project usually organises trips twice a year

The Covid-19 outbreak has forced the cancellation of planned trips in the spring and summer.

“This is the only holiday for most of them so they were upset,” she said.

“One was in floods of tears as they are really good trips with lots of activities, such as canoeing and swimming, which they normally don’t get to do.”

Jane, who worked as a hospital virologist before retraining three years ago, says she now has the best job in the world.

But she said the coronavirus restrictions had been “a real challenge”.

“I’m missing the connection, I’m missing them and I’m thinking about them.”

BBC News

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