COVID IMPACT & Blue EDGE

After launching Blue EDGE in four sites across Victoria in 2019, seeing 136 young people, and their local communities immersed in the program, Blue EDGE is in popular demand – set to roll out into eight new communities over the coming 3 years.

Shepparton Blue EDGE

The Blue EDGE (Educate, Develop, Grow, Empower) program aims to extend a young person’s mental and physical ability. The program utilises community policing and relationship strengthening, crime prevention, physical activity and life skill development to reach its goal.

Due to COVID restrictions, in-person programs have been put on pause in 2020 while school students immerse in remote learning. The Blue Light team have been busy creating fresh content and resources ready to go for when the program is back up and running.

Commission for Children and Young People

The impact of COVID has been felt by all ages across various aspects of our lives. Recent investigation by The Commission for Children and Young People has revealed the massive impact COVID has had on young people and their mental health. Through consultations with 600 children and young people and 170 workers from 7 organisations supporting them, the findings show major challenges of loneliness, isolation, disruption to routines and young people’s usual strategies for coping and seeking safety not being readily accessible or supported. The findings also reveal their visibility being diminished.

“For vulnerable children already at risk of disengagement, the impact on their education could be devastating and permanent. We will need a major effort and investment to address education gaps widened by the pandemic,” Commissioner Buchanan

*The Blue EDGE 2019 Evaluation found the program offered an alternative opportunity to engage key students – catering to different learning styles and needs, fostering team work and challenging participants in fresh and empowering ways. One teacher noted that she observed “Students really excel in participatory activities. Social barriers and ‘cliques’ are quickly overcome when doing teamwork based activities.”

Moving Forward

Team Work

In moving forward post COVID-restrictions, it is evident that such programs are desperately needed. Blue Light Victoria and Victoria Police are committed to delivering the Blue EDGE Program to communities in Victoria reaching and including our most vulnerable young people.

“It is vital these concerns directly shape the responses on the ground. This consultation has shown us just how inter-connected are the factors that support the wellbeing and safety of children and young people, yet in many ways the pandemic is a time of profound disconnection,” Commissioner Mohamed concluded.

Meeting twice-weekly with the same participants and a core group of police members means that a Blue EDGE family is forged, with young participants feeling their own community’s support for them. The program provides an opportunity to interact and connect with people they might not usually hang out with, try new experiences, push themselves both physically and mentally, and open up with frank conversations and discussions around challenging life themes. The program enhances self-belief and confidence, supporting participants to see themselves as leaders and see value in their individual contribution to the group as a whole. There is a collective camaraderie that is fostered and connections are made that extend beyond the final session of the program.

Through the fitness component and life-skill workshop sessions, participants are exposed to a variety of wellbeing factors, providing valuable guidance on:

  • physical, mental and social health
  • nutrition
  • risk taking behaviours
  • important elements of healthy communication
  • asking for help
  • self-regulation; and
  • coping strategies with uncomfortable emotions.

Positive impact was recorded with participants changing attitude towards school, police, resilience and future view.

Feedback

The program received encouragement and support from all stakeholders.

  • One parent noted, “Great program that motivates and encourages participation, while learning positive skills to encourage self worth and gain confidence”
  • A police member noted, “Policing is really changing and focusing on being part of the community. This gives police members the opportunity to interact with young people and learn how to do it. Lets them learn how to be great role models and how to be vulnerable. It also a great ‘mental health’ break for us.”
  • A community member noted, “It’s this stage of life where we need to develop and empower our young people to have a voice, to make the right decisions and to drive the skills necessary to help them to be supportive leaders in the future.”
  • And another said, “The Blue EDGE program has been a great way to make stronger connections with the students participating. I have seen many grow in confidence over the 8 weeks”
Power

The Blue EDGE team have been working with sites to adapt its delivery approach to work with children and young people during this time and into 2021. We are excited to get programs back up and running in our communities and continue to grow the Blue EDGE family!

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