The Connection Coalition: Youth Loneliness Panel, held on 16th December 2021, was held aiming to increase our understanding on the issue of youth loneliness. We shared some of the latest research and heard from various local projects, to help us better understand the barriers that community organisers face when tackling the issue of youth loneliness, so that we might address them in the future.
The video of the event is available here. We heard from the following as part of the plenary discussions:
- Andy Mortimer, Head of Communications, The Co-op Foundation
- Su Moore, CEO, The Jo Cox Foundation
- Mohammed Hanif, Trustee, Advancement of Community Empowerment CIC
- Naomi Lea, Founder, Project Hope
- Marianne Quinn, Senior PR and Comms Officer, The Jo Cox Foundation
- Jean Inglis, Volunteer Glasgow
- Kevin Franks, CEO, Youth Focus North East
- Charlotte Hill, Tackling Loneliness Team, DCMS
In addition to the speakers we had over 30 participants from a wide range of organisations and backgrounds, including young people and representatives from local projects like The Wolfpack Project and The Big Red Bus Club, Local Authorities including Warwickshire County Council, and national organisations including The Reading Agency and the Campaign to End Loneliness. The themes from the breakout discussions were:
The role of language: the word and associations of ’loneliness’ often don’t resonate with young people. There were reflections and experience from youth work organisations on the use of positive framing working well - talking about health, wellbeing and making meaningful connections. One young person said talking about belonging was effective with her and her peers "you can feel connected but not belong - belonging comes up a lot".
The role of transitions: young people shared their experiences of loneliness and how these often came in the move out of the formal education system, when moving away from home, and/or entering full time work. This aligned with the Co-op Foundation research which shows in school levels of loneliness are lower, and levels in young people aged 18+ were higher. There was conversation around how to make workplaces inclusive for young people when they are e.g. moving to new cities, there seems to be lots of talk but not a lot of action! Young people have been particularly impacted by the work from home mandate throughout the pandemic.
- Engaging and involving young people in the conversation: Young people reflected on it being rare to see or hear from young people in conversations about youth loneliness. Across all age groups, it's important to remember that there is diversity within young people - they are not a monolithic group - e.g. young people with English as a second language. Anyone working in this sector needs to go in without many preconceptions. Those with experience of working with young people say what works is having young people in the lead. Do the ‘loneliness sector’ who are increasingly recognising youth loneliness as an issue and wanting to work to tackle it, need training and support on how to meaningfully engage with young people to shape their work?
The next convening for this network will be on Wednesday 2nd March, 3 - 4:30pm. Picking up one of the key themes from the first panel, we will be discussing engaging and involving young people in the conversation on youth loneliness. Participants will be invited to share their experiences of what works well, what doesn’t work, and any helpful tools and guidance we can capture and share. We will discuss whether or not a simple resource for professionals who work on loneliness but are new to working with young people might be helpful - perhaps with top tips and signposts to all the existing work and resources out there. If you would like to present your work or have other ideas on this topic to share, please contact [email protected]