Working together to tackle youth loneliness

Young people are 'embracing co-operation as a way to help their peers'

Last week (7 April) the UK government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data showing that young people are the age group most likely to be affected by ‘lockdown loneliness’. But the Co-op Foundation – the Co-op Group’s charity arm – says that co-operation can play a key role in addressing this. 

“It is sadly no surprise that young people are the age group most likely to be affected by ‘lockdown loneliness’”, says Nick Crofts, who was recently appointed chief executive of the charity. 

“Over more than a year of social distancing, they’ve seen schools and colleges close while physical interactions with each other have been hugely restricted. Every adult, parent and policymaker should be aware of the impact this can have on young people’s well-being. We all have a role to play in providing support as restrictions are lifted and we return to a more ‘normal’ life.”

But Mr Crofts added that there was “optimism”. The fact the Group’s own Locked Down, Looking Out research shows that despite many young people feeling lonelier than a year ago, they’re also embracing co-operation as a way to help their peers. Two-thirds say they’re more likely to reach out to others in need while almost half say lockdown has made them think more about people in their community, and they have taken action to help. 

“We’ll build on this spirit of solidarity through our Lonely Not Alone campaign, which encourages young people to support others who feel lonely and need help,” added Mr crofts. 

“Our survey shows that, since March 2020, young people have built stronger relationships with family and friends; they’ve reached out to others in greater numbers, and they’ve found ways to overcome the isolation and boredom that has so negatively affected us all.”

However, there is also a cautionary note in the research, as almost half of the young people spoken to (48%) said they felt less confident in social situations in physical settings than a year ago. The figure rises among older age groups (53% for 16 to 25-year-olds) and those who are lonely most often (66% of young people who are often/always lonely). This suggests young people may need time and additional support to return to a life of more ‘normal’ physical interactions as we leave lockdown.

The Co-op Foundation says it aims to “help people challenge inequality and co-operate for change so they can share a fairer future”. It has awarded grants to community organisations tackling youth loneliness since 2017 and launched Lonely Not Alone in 2019 to combat the stigma of youth loneliness, and to help young people feel more confident talking about loneliness and taking actions to support themselves and others.

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