Four leading Irish youth organisations have formally launched a new unique online youth chat system called the Digital Youth Information Chat Service.
This service is a result of a pioneering national pilot conducted in association with Clare Youth Service late in 2019 and, in an uncanny harbinger of future events, put in place new digital structures to provide online information to young people and to engage and communicate with them.
Crosscare, SpunOut, YMCA and Youth Work Ireland, to whom Clare Youth Service is affiliated, have expedited the launch to support young people during Covid 19 lockdown and having being piloted in Clare, the Youth Information Online chat service is now the first national service of its kind in Ireland.
The Youth Information online chat service builds on a long standing partnership of professional Youth Information providers in Ireland and involves communications, safeguarding, data protection, and youth information practice.
The service is staffed by professional Youth Information Workers and is aimed at young people aged between 16 and 25. It has the support of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and it is impartial, non-judgemental, reliable, and accurate.
Jean O’Keeffe of Clare Youth Service said that the new venture is a natural extension of what youth information workers do day to day but enhances this work by recognising both the importance of the online lives that young people lead and of course the current period which presents huge challenges for young people.
“It builds on the pilot we were delighted to initiate in Clare and we expect it to make a significant contribution to young people’s lives here,” she added.
In welcoming the launch of the Digital Youth Information Chat Service, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone said the launch of the chat line service is particularly welcome at a time when young people are facing enormous challenges in all areas of their lives, particularly in matters of mental health, but are also harnessing their talents and capabilities to play a crucial role in the societal response to the current Covid-19 crisis.
“Any initiative which seeks to support young people in maintaining their health and wellbeing is particularly welcome now and into the future,” Minister Zappone emphasised.
CEO of Clare Youth Service, Margaret Slattery believes the new service is crucial given the spread of inaccurate information on some online platforms,
“In an era of false news and confusion online, Youth Information Service partners bring expertise to this work by providing quality youth information to young people in a way that helps them to use the information and take positive action in their lives. It will provide youth information to young people who can’t easily access physical Youth Information Centres.
“ We know the need for the service based on our day to day experience. The service is critical because it responds to young people’s information needs in real time and helps them navigate different arguments and information sources by being able to interact with a trained professional through the chat service.”
Young people can access the service by going to https://direct.lc.chat/10341532/
The system will be initially live from 4pm to 8pm Monday till Friday. Young people can make queries outside of these times, which will generate a “ticket.” Youth Information Workers then pick up and respond to outstanding ticket when they system next becomes active.