With many within Leicester’s BAME communities facing struggles with the COVID-19  virus alongside  a variety of socio-economic challenges, Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) have delivered two projects designed to reduce social isolation by offering support that can help with employability as well as health and well-being.

Funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund; the Youth Employability Support (YES) Project and the Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) Project have supported over 1,180 participants combined. With  36%** of these participants from BAME communities, it was paramount that services were adjusted to reflect the new challenges that have arose. Both the YES and GREAT Projects were quick to recognise that members of BAME communities were facing more barriers, and acted swiftly on adapting their ways of delivery to ensure their participants were still able to access support. The projects knew that now more than ever, individuals were going to need their support to overcome this difficult time.

To understand the full extent of the barriers and hardships the BAME community face during COVID-19, the YES Project spoke with Ebrahim Ali, a YES Project Officer working at Bangladesh Youth & Cultural Shomiti (BYCS).

Ebrahim explained that:

  • Many BAME areas within Leicester are traditionally of a lower average income and are therefore more likely to experience poverty.
  • Households tend to have a lack of technological equipment and access to information.
  • Housing areas within BAME communities are traditionally Victorian terraced houses and are of a smaller average floor space.
  • Multi-generational households may mean families are living in closer proximity to one another, so privacy and space is not always available.
  • With older family members potentially shielding, other individuals in the household also have to be mindful when it comes to leaving the home.


To help address the challenges and ease participant’s worries, both projects began delivering their sessions and one-to-one support remotely, either online or by telephone. Sessions moved online to video based software, meaning people could access support from the comfort and safety of their own home. The projects knew that not all individuals had access to IT equipment and as such, created paper worksheets and offered telephone support too.

The YES Project created a video, speaking to Ebrahim, to help raise awareness of the challenges the BAME community face and to outline the methods they are taking to ease these barriers. The project was able to speak to one of their participants, who has directly faced many of these challenges, and heard how she has been able to continue with her studies because of the methods the project introduced. The video can be viewed below.

The GREAT Project found that many of the participants accessing their online sessions were from BAME communities and lacked the technological skills needed to get online. Many of them faced language barriers too, adding to the difficulty. Ebrahim also mentioned that within BAME communities, many families are apprehensive when it comes to using the internet, as the worry of online predators is common. So, one thing the GREAT Project did to help ease these worries, was to create a video guide to using Zoom. This helped family members understand how to access and use the platform, but it also assured them everything would be conducted in a safe environment.

Prior to lockdown, some GREAT Project participants attended a confidence building workshop, and whilst there, they began to form a friendship. This friendship group kept in touch over the last few months and credit GREAT to helping form that support network. GREAT hosted a catchup with these individuals to hear about their experience, and it was encouraging to see that many women who came from a women-only group, now had the confidence to talk online with both men and women. The catch-up can be viewed below.

Both projects have worked tirelessly to make sure their services are accessible to everybody, and it seems the methods employed are working. Participants that continue to access support are progressing well, and both projects have seen fantastic successes and results. Between the projects, individuals have increased their confidence, achieved their GCSEs and found work opportunities.

Mahek Sheik, a YES Project participant, said:

“I was doing online classes in this lockdown. I just did my literacy and some math’s also, but unfortunately my laptop went down and it’s not working now… The sirs [at BYCS] will call me and ask me, so I’ll answer them on the phone or we’ll email now.”

This quote from Mahek really speaks to the barriers people from BAME communities are facing, and shows how the projects and their participants are finding alternative ways to continue with support.

A GREAT Participant that wishes to remain anonymous said:

“The GREAT Project Zoom sessions have been very good, being able to have some interaction. I have made some good friends with other participants from the project.”

Both projects are pleased to say they are taking new referrals and encourages direct contact from young adults, family, friends, stakeholders and referring organisations to get in touch. For more information about the YES Project or the GREAT Project, please contact the team by email or make a referral via their website.

The YES Project tel 0116 257 4973

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