UK Youth welcomes the news that The Prime Minister has launched the first cross-Government loneliness strategy.
We are pleased that the Government is taking steps to tackle loneliness and has made a commitment to measuring youth loneliness to start to identify the causes and tackle the problem.
Recent BBC Research found that young people are the most likely age group to feel lonely. The strategy acknowledges that the 16-24 age group is a key trigger point for loneliness. Our report, A Place To Belong, launched in August this year and funded by Co-op Foundation, found that despite youth loneliness being widespread, young people face barriers when talking about feeling lonely. Youth workers (73% of those surveyed) reported that the young people they work with do not actively seek help to tackle the problem. A Place To Belong, identified that youth services tackle loneliness by providing a safe space for young people to build positive relationships with peers and trusted adults; foster a sense of belonging for young people, gain the skills required to respond to difficulty through taking part in different types of activities and gaining support and advice. We therefore welcome the acknowledgement of the importance of local facilities and community infrastructure to tackle loneliness as part of the Strategy. The Prime Minister has confirmed £1.8m will be available to increase the number of community spaces available – the funding will be used to transform underutilised areas, such as creating new community cafes, art spaces or gardens.
Anna Smee, CEO, UK Youth says “We support the goal in the strategy to embed loneliness across government policy, recognising the wide range of factors that can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and support people’s social wellbeing and resilience. The strategy includes a number of crosscutting policies to benefit all of society, alongside more tailored interventions that can support people when they are at greater risk due to specific trigger points in their life. It also looks at how government can ensure social relationships are considered across its wider policy-making.”
A Place To Belong, identified that it is essential that we don’t look at loneliness in isolation. Many of the route causes to loneliness are also linked to key challenges facing young people including mental health, serious violence and gangs, education, employment and engaging in civil society. In order to address this further we recommend;
- A commitment from government and other major stakeholders to fund the involvement of young people in the co-design of specific solutions and resources to ensure they are realistic and fit for purpose;
- A youth offer,backed by a cross-party and cross Government department commission and headed by a Minister for Young People that delivers against agreed long term outcomes for young people.
- An increase in core funding to existing local youth organisations to provide support to young people and to allow youth organisations to better engage those young people who can’t access, or aren’t accessing, youth services.”
Youth organisations provide non-medical solutions to some of the challenges young people are facing. They are well placed to play a key role in the use of social prescribing as a solution to some of the effects of loneliness through their ability to create safe spaces and build positive, trusted relationships with young people. We welcome the prominence of social prescribing in the strategy and the commitment by government to support all local health and care systems to implement social prescribing connector schemes across the whole country by 2023, supporting government’s aim to have a universal national offer available in GP practices.
Whilst we welcome the strategy and the commitment to tackling loneliness, it is imperative that there is an acknowledgement from Government and key stakeholders that loneliness affects young people from all backgrounds and circumstance and recognise the role that youth work plays in tackling loneliness.
We are looking forward to continue working with the Government following the announcement of this strategy and to ensure young people in not just schools and online, but on a local level in youth organisations and groups, advocating to support the young people we know need it the most.