Diocesan Synod hear of struggles of young people during the pandemic

Jonathan Mann, Relationship Manager – London & South East for The Children’s Society came to speak to a virtual gathering of Diocesan Synod in July.

He spoke about the issues he has been coming across, particularly during the pandemic, in his volunteer role  as a befriender for The Children’s Society, and how parishes could lend their voice to support their campaigns for change.

"I’m a volunteer befriender in the Refugee and Migrant team, which works with young people who have often fled war torn countries, and are separated from their families. They often have no support networks here and limited opportunities to make friends.

"We normally meet face to face with a young person, to do an activity that we’ve chosen together, such as visiting a famous London landmark or museum, or playing games or sports. This helps the young person get familiar with their new city, help their understanding of British Culture, improves their English and build their confidence and resilience.

"Having someone to meet up with and have fun with reduces isolation and helps young people to feel more welcome in London. I personally was overwhelmed with my visit to London as teenager, can you imagine how it would be for a young person from another country?

He explained that such activities has been significantly curtailed during the pandemic;

"Since the lockdown, this has stopped… we’re all struggling in different ways with being stuck indoors and in our houses, and it’s really difficult for many of the young people who are living alone, or with people they don’t know, and without support. We still need to be there for these young people, as individuals and as a society.

"We’ve started to do weekly catch up calls. Now these can be quite tricky, as it’s more difficult to communicate on the phone across a language barrier. So we’re finding new ways to communicate, such as texting short sentences and then reading them out loud, or playing word bingo!"

He explained that parishes could help by supporting a petition on No Recourse to Public Funds, as thousands of children and young people in the UK face extreme poverty because strict immigration rules prevent them and their families from accessing essential support like Universal Credit, tax credits and crisis support - even in the unprecedented circumstances created by coronavirus/Covid-19.

"I appreciate that during these anxious times many may not be in the position to support financially. I’m therefore asking if you could lend your voice by signing our petition.

"We are calling on the government to suspend the No Recourse to Public Funds condition on migrant families - which is putting thousands of children’s health and wellbeing at risk."

You find out more here

Jon is keen to work with any churches in the area who would like to know more about social justice, he has lots of resources explaining how to campaign in your church and happy to put on workshops.

He'll also be in the Rochester area on the 3 and 6 August, and would be happy to make a socially distanced meeting if that would be preferred.

Please contact him on: jonathan.mann@childrenssociety.org.uk .


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