How the increased use of digital technology during the COVID19 pandemic is transforming the way that LGBTQ+ youth work is practiced in the UK

Jane Melvin, Olu Jenzen, Carl Bonner‐Thompson, Laura Harvey

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Cumulative COVID19 lockdowns in the UK in 2020/21 have challenged youth work organisations to respond in different ways to the continued need to support young people’s journey from childhood to adulthood. Many have been compelled to react quickly to develop digital, remote and virtual responses that will enable continued contact between youth workers and young people, and this particularly applies to those working with targeted groups that are considered to be more at risk in the pandemic. During the periods of lockdown in the UK, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) young people have been forced into hostile and unsafe environments, making contact with their youth workers and peers even more imperative to their wellbeing. Conversations with youth workers have highlighted the need for research that will enable analysis of the rapid changes to practice that have taken place, and that will facilitate knowledge exchange between youth work organisations in relation to reshaping the way that they work with young people in the future.

Working to a research question of ‘How is COVID19 and the increased use of digital technology transforming the ways LGBTQ+ youth work is practiced in the UK?’, this paper will highlight where existing digital, remote and virtual methods have been successfully repurposed to deliver online youth work to LGBTQ+ young people. It will also examine some of the challenges and will explore how youth work organisations can adopt a more digital agile mindset for the future, with a particular focus on the needs of LGBTQ+ young people or other vulnerable groups.

As a part of the research, a stakeholder consultation identified that youth workers supporting young people who identify as LGBTQ+, were exhibiting a more digitally agile mindset than those in youth work organisations with a less targeted remit towards vulnerable groups of young people. This was evidenced by youth work organisations supporting LGBTQ+ young people responding quickly to expressed and perceived needs, and by finding new and innovative methods to engage with young people online. Examples given suggested that prompt action has secured the continuation of projects aimed at LGBTQ+ young people, and that they have also demonstrated enterprise and resilience in doing so. This is despite limited time and resources to pursue bespoke technological solutions, with youth workers opting instead to connect with young people via already established, commercial social media platforms and other online youth environments. This has also caused these organisations to be at the forefront of supporting other youth work organisations to develop similar services for young people, and in the further development of digital youth work methods.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2021
EventYouth Work in Flux: An academic point of view on youth work training and education - University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia
Duration: 16 Jun 202116 Jun 2021


ConferenceYouth Work in Flux


  • youth work
  • LGBTQ+
  • young people
  • digital
  • online


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