UK Youth have launched their new report on youth loneliness. You can read the full a place to belong report here.
The research found that despite youth loneliness being widespread, young people seem to face barriers when talking about feeling lonely with 73% of youth workers disagreeing that the young people they work with actively seek help to tackle the problem.
To help better identify lonely young people, youth workers acknowledged four key risk factors that could lead to youth loneliness. These include going through a significant or difficult situation; weak social networks; high expectations of social networks; and having a limited ability to cope with difficult situations (e.g. low confidence or resilience).
The research also suggested that local youth organisations are ideally placed to be a key part of the solution. 67% of youth workers reported their youth organisation currently offers support for young people who feel lonely. This support includes providing safe spaces for young people, fostering a sense of belonging and providing opportunities to build positive relationships, gain skills to respond to difficulty and access specialist support.
- Loneliness is a problem that could affect all young people;
- There are four factors that increase the risk of youth loneliness: experiencing difficult situations, weak social networks, high expectation of social networks and limited ability to cope;
- Youth organisations are already addressing youth loneliness by providing safe spaces, fostering a sense of belonging, referring young people to specialist support and providing opportunities to build positive relationships and gain skills to respond to difficulty;
- In order to tackle youth loneliness effectively and sustainably, youth organisations call for a clear strategy and definition of youth loneliness, renewed and specific funding, more collaborative working between local services and recommended resources and activities to address loneliness amongst young people.
Youth workers were clear that in order to help them maximise their role in addressing youth loneliness there were larger changes and improvements that they would value that are outside of their control. These included:
- Support further research and consultation with the youth workers, young people and experts to develop a youth sector-wide strategy for youth loneliness. This would include a standardised and clear definition of youth loneliness, a coherent and long-term strategy on the sector’s role in addressing it, and clarity on what “success” looks like.
- A long-term commitment from government and other major stakeholders to fund the involvement of young people in the co-design of specific solutions and resources to ensure they are realistic, fit for purpose and work for all young people rather than just those previously understood as ‘at-risk’.
- Increased core funding to enable existing local youth organisations to provide more support to young people at risk of loneliness.
- Increased funding for detached work to allow youth organisations to better engage those young people who can’t access, or aren’t accessing, youth centres.
The youth workers also made some more specific recommendations to enable their youth organisations to better address youth loneliness. These included:
Development of training to upskill youth workers in the area of youth loneliness, specifically:
- How to define and understand the causes of youth loneliness;
- How to identify types of loneliness in young people;
- How to raise awareness of youth loneliness appropriately;
- How to confidently discuss loneliness through empathetic listening.
Development of activities and resources to help youth workers address loneliness with young people, specifically by:
- Building resilience, communication and other emotional and social capabilities;
- Building strong supportive relationships and social networks;
- Addressing the positive and negative role of social media.
Ongoing support for a network of youth workers to share advice, experience and ideas on addressing youth loneliness
Development of an organisational ‘diagnostic’ to allow local youth organisations to self-assess and improve their ability and capacity to address youth loneliness.
Development of an appropriate measurement framework and indicators to enable organisations to identify, support and demonstrate success in supporting young people into positive relationships and belonging.
Development of better links between local youth organisations and local educational, health and social services to both ‘refer-in’ and ‘refer-out’ young people to provide better holistic support.