Without the support of a family, care leavers have to face moving into their first home or getting a job at an earlier age.
Recognising these challenges, the Co-operative College and the Co-op Foundation hosted an event at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum where young care leavers gave a drama performance on how loneliness affects them.
According to charity Barnados, young people leaving care are forced to be independent much younger than their peers, at 16-18.
A recent government report revealed that 64% of leaving care services are judged by Ofsted to either ‘require improvement’ or rated simply as ‘inadequate’.
Care leavers also identified isolation, loneliness and a lack of a reliable social network as one of the key issues faced in their late teens and early twenties.
Funded through a £25,000 grant from the #iwill Fund, the project brought together young care leavers to design a show featuring rap, singing and a desert island monologue.
Participants brought their stories to light while highlighting the damaging impact of loneliness. They said the show helped them gain confidence and meet new people.
“It gives you more confidence and makes you more sociable. People are there to support you and help if you’re feeling a bit down,” said one of the care leavers taking part.
Simon Parkinson, chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College , said: “This is a fantastic project that has made a real difference to those involved and to local communities across Greater Manchester. We hope that their inspiring performance will empower other young care leavers to come forward and talk about how loneliness affects them too.”
Jim Cooke, head of the Manchester-based Co-op Foundation, added: “Isolation and loneliness are real issues for many young care leavers. By funding projects such as the Youth Co-operative Action Group, the Co-op Foundation is supporting young people to talk openly about loneliness, often for the first time.
“We’re delighted young people have been able to use creative arts to tell their own stories, breaking down the stigma of loneliness and building their own skills and confidence.”
Those involved in the project will now act as mentors for future programmes, which will help to create a community that young care leavers can turn to for support.
The Co-op Foundation is a charity set up and supported by the Co-op working to help disadvantaged communities. Earlier this year the Foundation has been awarded a £1m grant from the #iwill fund, which it will match with an additional £1m to fund a network of projects to inspire young people to take action to address loneliness.