Loneliness awareness week: Plan to tackle youth isolation

12 June 2024

  • Blog

This week is Loneliness Awareness Week, a time to highlight the importance of loneliness, isolation and its impact on people, including young people.

This year’s theme is Random Acts of Connection, aimed at encouraging everyone to increase those simple, everyday moments of connection which help us feel happier, less lonely and increase our sense of belonging, writes Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.

This update shares how policy is being shaped around the loneliness agenda and how the upcoming General Election may impact this.

Research has found people aged 16-24 are more likely to say they feel lonely often/always than every other age group.

Youth loneliness

Research has found people aged 16-24 are more likely to say they feel lonely often/always than every other age group. It is vital the next Government works to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people, including their experience of loneliness and isolation. Effective and coordinated youth work can provide both a preventative non-clinical intervention for young people and a supportive service for them during any clinical treatment they receive. This youth work support helps improve outcomes for young people and saves the taxpayer money through preventative work. 

Youth workers and local youth organisations are already working to tackle youth loneliness by providing a safe space for young people, as well as positive relationships and support and referring them to specialist support if needed. We need to amplify and uplift the role of youth work and youth organisations in this space, and ensure they have the tools to thrive. 

Belong Collective

The Belong Collective is a cross-sector network, which is focused on connecting practitioners to share learning, challenges, good practice, and new thinking about youth loneliness. The Collective centres young people and their lived experience in its work. 

The focus of this work is wider than just the youth sector – supporting those who work and engage with young people to consider youth loneliness and embed effective solutions to tackle it. The collective aims to improve cross-sector working, influence policy making and provide support to practitioners – many of whom often feel ‘alone’ when trying to support young people who are lonely.  

Having this collective and the young people involved has been a fundamental catalyst to being able to influence in this space, by showing politicians and decision-makers what best practice looks like, and our expertise in this area. 

Loneliness policy

When the Government published its Loneliness Strategy in 2018, references to youth loneliness highlighted the important role of uniformed youth groups, alongside the need to co-produce solutions with young people. The strategy laid out several measures to be taken by the Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to address youth loneliness. The Government has since produced an annual report, updating on progress to achieve these aims. 

It is important that we keep Government accountable on achieving the aims set out in this strategy and that these recommendations do not get neglected or forgotten.

The Belong Collective is focused on connecting practitioners to share learning, challenges, good practice, and new thinking about youth loneliness.

This is even more important as we enter the General Election period and look towards what action the next Government will take to tackle loneliness. While there have been a few commitments so far from different political parties on the issue of mental health, loneliness is yet to have been specifically addressed.

Whoever comes into power to form the next Government, we would like to see continued commitment to this agenda, including dedicated leadership at a Ministerial level for this issue. There is a huge opportunity to make a difference to the loneliness of young people during this time of change. 

Our most recent report for the Belong Collective, titled We Choose To Be Here, outlines a range of recommendations for both policy-makers and those delivering services for youth loneliness to be addressed.  

We would like to see the new Government commit to: 

By next Loneliness Awareness Week, it would be great to see a number of these recommendations implemented, or in progress, so we are able to create the change needed to prevent youth loneliness from the outset and support those facing loneliness as young people. 

Kate Roberts, UK Youth policy manager.

About UK Youth

UK Youth is a leading charity with a vision that all young people are equipped to thrive and empowered to contribute at every stage of their lives. With an open network of more than 8,000 youth organisations and nation partners; UK Youth reaches more than four million young people across the UK and is focused on unlocking youth work as the catalyst of change that is needed now more than ever. To find out more, visit ukyouth.org 

UK Youth is involved in a range of programmes designed to help young people thrive, such as outdoor learning, physical literacy, social action and employability, including Hatch, a youth employability programme run in partnership with KFC. For more on UK Youth’s programmes, see ukyouth.org/what-we-do/programmes

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