The Co-op Group has partnered with the Youth Endowment Fund and the #iwill Fund to make a further £7.5m investment into youth-led network Peer Action Collective (PAC), “to further support young people to make communities safer and fairer”.
PAC is a network of young people, led by 120 peer researchers and 1,600 changemakers, who have so far reached over 4,600 young people.·The new funding will see it deliver youth-led research and social action projects for another five years, impacting the lives of over 11,000 young people in England and Wales.
By 2028 the Group, the Youth Endowment Fund and the #iwill Fund will have invested £12.7m into PAC.
The investment comes as PAC’s first research report, based on insight from over 4,600 young people, reveals young people worry social deprivation, compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, will negatively impact their safety and employment prospects.
Worryingly, the report adds that young people are experiencing violence in their communities and facing discrimination, which they attribute to the cost of living crisis, lack of opportunity and increasing financial challenges.
Peer pressure is also an issue, with many young people speaking about an environment, particularly in schools, where they feel pressure to fit in and go along with others.
Adding to the problem, where young people previously were able to meet in youth clubs and through other organised activities, cuts to funding for these services have led to a limited number of safe places for them to socialise.
Young people have also spoken about the challenges of finding and accessing appropriate support for mental health. They described feeling that their mental health was not taken seriously, culminating in frustration and resentment.
In terms of gender, LGBTQ+ and race inequalities, young people have spoken out about how different aspects of their identity impact on experiences, people talked about disability, neurodiversity, socio-economic background, and most commonly gender, sexuality and race.
Research from the PAC report reveals eight areas where young people want support to make their communities safer and fairer: and end to ‘low level’ bullying and discriminatory remarks; access to opportunities and meaningful employment; more youth-friendly spaces; safer, more tolerant schools with action to prevent violence; more accessible mental health services; safer social media with better management of inappropriate content; consideration of inequalities and lived experience in terms of finding solutions to youth violence; and engaging with youth when implementing change.
The Co-op Group is investing £2.5 million into the PAC through funding from its members via the Co-op Community Partnerships Fund and is a core part of its commitment to creating fairer access to opportunities for young people. It follows the recent launch of its national charity partnership with Barnardo’s to support 750,000 young people aged 10-25.
Rebecca Birkbeck, director of community and member participation at the Group, said: “Our work in our local communities has shown us the positive, long term impact young people can have when they are given opportunities to act on the issues they care about.
“The research from the young people in the Peer Action Collective lays bare the inequalities their generation are now facing and we simply cannot have a situation where they feel they cannot change their path or improve their life chances.”
Meanwhile, the Group’s charity, the Co-op Foundation, has released its Learning and Impact Report for 2022, revealing that it gave £3.4m to build fairer communities during the year.
This includes awarding £1.4m grants from its Carbon Innovation Fund partnership with the Group to support organisations tackling climate change and a second £250k grant to Refugee Action to support, and raise the voices of, asylum seekers.
Co-op Foundation also launched a new strategy in 2022, planning over five years to: work with young people to create a vision of what future communities should look like in 10 years’ time; pioneer a distinctly co-operative way of funding; and co-operate across the co-operative, social change, and philanthropy sectors to bring its vision of future communities to life.
Nick Crofts, Co-op Foundation CEO said: “2022 was a landmark year for the Co-op Foundation. Launching our new strategy while supporting our funded partners to co-operate for a fairer world is something we’re all proud of.
“Our 2022 Learning and Impact Report is a celebration of this work and shares what we learned throughout the year. We’re just at the start of our journey. Please sign up to our blog to join us and let’s build communities of the future together.”
Group chair Allan Leighton said: “The Co-op Foundation is a jewel at the heart of the Co-op. From tackling inequality in the asylum system to leveraging match funding so more homeless young people can tackle loneliness, they provide a different way to reach communities alongside Co-op’s vision, and they changed lives for the better in 2022. I’m proud to support the Co-op Foundation as they join us in co-operating for a fairer world.”
Shirine Khoury-Haq, Co-op CEO, said: “Being a great co-operator starts with listening and then working together to make a difference. The Co-op Foundation did this so well in 2022 – they listened to communities to build a bold, new strategy and they listened to young people to develop a vision for a better future. We are already seeing the benefits of this impact and I know this will grow in 2023 as we build communities of the future together.”
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