This guest blog is written by the Co-op Foundation. Find out more about our work with them here.
Loneliness can affect us at any time of life, and young people are no exception. Almost one in three 16 to 24-year olds say they are ‘often’ or ‘always’ lonely.
In many communities, youth workers are local heroes in the battle against loneliness.
“You made me feel normal”
Manchester Metropolitan University and 42nd Street recently launched Loneliness Connects Us – a ground-breaking study that has brought young people’s voices and experiences of loneliness to the fore.
The research team visited youth centres across the UK, from Ballymena to Great Yarmouth. They saw how these vital services offer young people safe environments to be themselves and connect with others. And they heard what a difference youth workers can make – as powerfully described by one young participant in Manchester:
“Thank you for just talking to me and treating me like any other person… You didn’t treat me like I was an inconvenience, or feel sorry for me, or not know how to act when I was around… You made me feel welcome and comfortable and ‘normal’ at a time when I felt like no one understood, and you’ll probably never know how much that helped me.”
Now we want to hear from you…
That’s why the Co-op Foundation launched Belong – our UK-wide network of organisations committed to learning more about youth loneliness and finding effective solutions.
We’re supporting UK Youth to talk to people who work with young people up and down the country. We hope to find out more about current levels of awareness, capability and barriers to addressing youth loneliness, and what could help youth organisations do this even better.
If you work with young people, make sure your views are heard – complete our survey.
How we’ll use the results
We know youth organisations are facing big challenges. To tackle youth loneliness effectively and sustainably will need the sector as a whole to be strengthened.
UK Youth’s recent State of the Membership report highlighted the top three concerns:
- Lack of funding and sustainability
- Lack of voice and influence at a national level
- Lack of skilled and experienced staff
This new research will help us give the youth sector a voice in the emerging policy debate on loneliness. As members of a new national Loneliness Action Group, the Co-op Foundation are committed to sharing the findings to inform government strategies and cross-sector engagement on this issue.
We’ll also look at any immediate practical steps we can take to increase youth organisations’ knowledge and skills around loneliness – sharing the learning from our network of partners more widely across the sector.
And as for funding?
At the end of April we’ll be opening the next round of the Co-op Foundation #iwill fund. This supports social action projects that bring young people together to tackle loneliness. To find out full details of the fund when they’re announced, subscribe to the Foundation’s blog or follow us on Twitter.
So please do take a few minutes to respond to UK Youth’s survey – and share it with other youth organisations. Help us work together to make things better for lonely young people.