The Belong Collective aims to be a cross sector network, which is focused on connecting practitioners to share learning, challenges, good practice, and new thinking about youth loneliness. 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 will improve cross-sector working, influence policy making and also provide support to practitioners – many of whom often feel ‘alone’ when trying to support young people who are lonely.
Vision for the Belong Collective
The aims of the current network are:
Cross-sector, joined up working
To help identify young people who may be hidden to youth services and also provide referral pathways where further support is needed.
To support Youth Workers with training and resources in reaching out to young people experiencing loneliness
Bring together youth-centred resources
To provide opportunities for young people to connect through providing safe spaces, youth-centred peer support and detached youth work
We now know that young people are more affected by loneliness than any other age group. This can have a short-term effect on young people’s physical and mental health as well as their educational attainment. This can also lead to long term-effects on their relationships, employability and overall life satisfaction.
Evidence tells us that:
Pre-COVID, 40% of young people felt lonely at any one time
16 – 24-year-olds are more likely to feel lonely than any other age group
10% of 16–25-year-olds feel lonely ‘always’
4 out of 5 young people have experienced loneliness at some point
Loneliness is more likely to affect different groups of young people
82% of Youth Workers feel loneliness particularly affects young people they work with
The Youth Leadership Group
The Youth Leadership Group (YLG) are a group of 12 young people aged between 16-25, who have been selected from across the UK to spark a national conversation of change by addressing and tackling the issues of youth loneliness and isolation. Their role is to lead projects, campaigns, and research to empower communities and strive for systemic change. They will speak beyond the data, sharing stories and experiences of youth loneliness, to create an experience of inspiration and motivation to act.
The Research Report Summary
This report highlights our findings from research we have been undertaking with young people and youth workers across the youth sector to help us understand the role of youth organisations in supporting young people facing loneliness. The last two years have seen an unprecedented change in the sector and presented new challenges to young people they may never have faced before. We now know that this has had a significant impact on young people’s feelings of loneliness.
‘We choose to be here’ describes the essential role that youth organisations play in helping young people to overcome these feelings of loneliness in the face of such a challenging period. By helping them to connect with others, make new friendships and explore their own identity, youth organisations act as vital outlets for young people. Through their own choices to participate in activities and groups that youth organisations provide, young people are making an empowered step to challenge their feeling of loneliness and create a new future for themselves.
This research not only describes how youth organisations play this essential role but also, reflects on a challenging two years for the youth sector, and how we can learn from this time to build future policies and practices that policymakers, youth workers and young people can draw upon to create real change.
The research acts as a follow-up to our 2018 report, ‘A Place to Belong’, which first helped to set out a series of strategic and delivery-level recommendations, including both the need for further research into youth loneliness and a space for a network of youth workers and organisations to come together, share advice, experience and create innovative solutions.