Here at UK Youth we recognise that youth organisations are ideally placed to support young people who feel lonely. From providing safe spaces that foster a sense of belonging for young people, to supporting positive relationships with other young people and trusted adults. Youth organisations are already doing a lot to address youth loneliness and there is so much learning and knowledge to be share and gained from talking to them.
That’s why we’re leading the Belong Collective – funded by the Co-op Foundation. This sector-led forum will help drive a national conversation and provide opportunities to strengthen local practice around addressing youth loneliness. This follows recommendations made in our ‘A Place to Belong’ research on the role of youth organisations in addressing youth loneliness, which shows that loneliness is a ‘common experience’ facing young people across the country today.
Although loneliness is often seen as an issue that predominantly affects the elderly, survey results published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) as part of its ‘Let’s Talk Loneliness’ campaign, show that people aged 18-24 are most likely to say they have felt lonely. Though it’s a common feeling, it becomes a bigger problem when it stops a young person from doing what they want to do next.
At our first Belong Collective event in held in Manchester earlier this month, we encouraged youth workers to explore challenges they have encountered when supporting young people facing youth loneliness. One key challenge that emerged was: despite the issue being widespread, how can we tackle the stigma surrounding youth loneliness?
‘Let’s just talk about it’
Our own research found that young people seem to face barriers when talking about feeling lonely, with 73% of youth workers reporting that the young people they work with don’t actively seek help to tackle the problem.
During the event, we unpacked this challenge to identify innovative solutions. One organisation noted that we just need to talk about youth loneliness more, but second to this, in the wider conversation it was identified that we need to be having this conversation at all levels and with all the groups involved to be able to tackle youth loneliness effectively…
1. Between young people
Youth workers recognised that they help to provide safe spaces for young people to engage and build relationships with each other. One organisation said that by building the confidence of young people to talk about youth loneliness, they can become advocates for the issue.
2. Between youth workers and young people
Trusted adult relationships are key to supporting young people facing youth loneliness to help them to gain the skills to respond to difficulty. The participants recognised that youth workers also need further support and training to equip them with the skills to identify when a young person is facing youth loneliness, and how to have the conversation.
3. Between youth organisations across the sector
The value of the sense of purpose and being part of something bigger that a wider collective provides can’t be underestimated. It allows organisations to share best practise and see how the work they are doing to address youth loneliness fits into the broader landscape of the youth sector. As one organisation put it, there is reassurance in knowing that ‘we’re in this together’.
We’re excited to continue to work in collaboration and drive this national conversation about all things loneliness at all levels identified by youth workers. If you are interested in attending the next Belong: Addressing Youth Loneliness Collective you can get tickets here.
This blog is written by Faiza Amin, Engagement & Advocacy Manager at UK Youth, who is leading the Belong Collective: addressing youth loneliness. Get in touch to find out more about the Belong Collective, upcoming events and join UK Youth’s Movement to stand with young people and campaign for them to have equal access to high-quality services in their community.