Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the youth club at Cwmllynfell in Neath Port Talbot was well attended and thriving – it provided opportunities for the development of young people to achieve their full potential in a welcoming, safe, and supportive environment staffed by qualified youth workers. When clubs were forced to close because of the restrictions in place during the pandemic, the team consulted with young people and one of the needs identified was to have better provision in Welsh. In particular, young people who attend school provision that is delivered in Welsh but have parents that don’t converse in Welsh at home felt they were missing out on the opportunity to speak Welsh and improve their conversational skills – and during lockdown, this issue was exacerbated.
In response a pilot scheme was set up by the Neath Port Talbot youth service, offering a virtual Welsh Youth Club Clwb Ieuenctid Symudol, which provides a safe space for young people to build confidence, gain new skills, socialise and improve their mental health and wellbeing, whilst also learning about Welsh culture, tradition and gaining new skills and/or qualifications through a busy programme of activities. The team worked collaboratively with the Headteachers of Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera and Ysgol Bro Du, the local Welsh medium comprehensive schools, enabling the youth club activity workers to attend school to handout information and craft supplies to young people attending the club during term time.
Erin Sandison, the Youth Mayor of Neath Port Talbot said: "I think that this is a great opportunity for young people to use and build their Welsh Language skills. It makes me happy to know that young people are taking up opportunities such as this to keep the Welsh Language going for future generations.”
The judging panel commended the Neath Port Talbot Youth Service team for their ability to see the challenge of the pandemic as an opportunity for change and development, highlighting their approach to working with the schools as an excellent basis for developing Welsh language youth work.