Co-op organisations support young people and tackle loneliness

'Our members are passionate about supporting young people and it’s the sector we’ve backed more than any other'

The Co-op Group and its charity the Co-op Foundation are making big strides in supporting the country’s young people – with the Group raising more than £5.4 million for youth organisations in just under two years, and a new report from the Foundation urging the youth sector to do more to tackle loneliness.

The report, A Place to Belong, is the result of research funded by the Co-op Foundation, published by charity UK Youth. Based on data collected from youth workers across the country, it found that loneliness is common among young people – and they face barriers when talking about feeling lonely.

Local youth organisations can play a key role in tackling the problem, the report adds, but there is a need for a clear overall strategy.

Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation, said: “Youth organisations are an important line of defence in tackling loneliness, but this research shows they face challenges that affect their ability to support young people as effectively as they would like.

Related: Co-op Foundation a key partner in government scheme to tackle loneliness

“We call on other funders, sector leaders and policy-makers to join us in responding to the insights and recommendations from A Place to Belong. By working together, we can unlock the full potential of local youth services to help all young people find a sense of belonging.”

The report is the Co-op Foundation’s latest findings since it launched Belong – a UK-wide network of partners committed to learning more about youth loneliness and working together to find effective solutions. The charity previously funded an innovative youth-led research project at Manchester Metropolitan University, which worked with 133 young people across the UK.

The charity has also begun building a network of projects to help young people make stronger connections in their communities – and a number of pilot projects exploring a range of practical approaches to tackling youth loneliness were completed last year, directly benefiting 161 young people and bringing valuable learning for the next stages of the work.

Related: How education can help the co-op movement grow

One project was the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Heard Not Hidden scheme, working with young deaf people through workshops and creative activities to help with confidence-building and self-expression. The Royal Exchange is using the lessons from the pilot to extend its work across Greater Manchester, bringing disabled and non-disabled peers together through performing arts.

Rebecca Birkbeck

This work is in addition to the £5.4m raised for youth groups in just under two years through the Co-op Group’s Local Community Fund, to which 1% of member spending on Co-op own-brand products is donated for local causes chosen by members. They include the Scouts and Guides, with nearly 400 guide, brownie and rainbow units receiving a total of £2,100,000.

Rebecca Birkbeck, director of community engagement at the Co-op Group, said: “Our members are passionate about supporting young people and it’s the sector we’ve backed more than any other, with no fewer than 3,000 organisations benefitting from our community fund.

“We are driven by co-operative values and principles, helping to bring young people together to support their local communities.”

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