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A place to belong

The role of local youth organisations in addressing youth loneliness

Introduction and methodology

This report focuses on the role of local youth organisations in addressing youth loneliness from the perspective of youth workers. We looked at four themes:

  • awareness of youth loneliness
  • capability to address youth loneliness
  • barriers to addressing youth loneliness
  • support required to more effectively address youth loneliness.

Evidence was collected on these four themes using three methodologies with youth workers from across the UK: a quantitative online survey with 152 respondents, three focus groups, and 12 in-depth interviews.

Youth loneliness from the perspective of youth workers

This section focuses on youth loneliness from the perspective of youth workers. Overall, we found six key insights:

  • Youth workers agree that loneliness is a problem they observe in young people;
  • Youth workers think the problem is made worse by cuts to youth services;
  • Youth workers are aware of the complexity of youth loneliness, especially around when it occurs, and how it can be both a cause of problems and an effect;
  • Youth workers identify four key risk factors to loneliness in young people: going through difficult situations, having weak social networks, having high expectations of their social networks, and not having the skills to cope with difficulty;
  • Although most youth workers feel able to identify loneliness generally, doing this on an individual level with young people is still challenging due to its sensitivity and complexity;
  • Youth workers report that young people don’t generally actively seek help for loneliness, either through not identifying it themselves or not wanting to admit it.

How youth organisations currently address youth loneliness

This section of the report explores the current capability and role of local youth organisations in addressing youth loneliness. Overall, we found seven key insights:

  • Youth workers believe they are already addressing youth loneliness, even if it isn’t always a stated goal or made the explicit purpose of their activity;
  • Local youth organisations provide safe spaces for young people to engage and build relationships;
  • Local youth organisations foster a sense of belonging for young people, especially for those without strong family units;
  • Local youth organisations provide positive relationships with other young people and trusted adults. These build community and encourage young people to take part in positive activities;
  • Local youth organisations support young people to gain the skills to respond to difficulty through taking part in different types of activities;
  • Local youth organisations refer young people to specialist support in health, social care and advice;
  • Local youth organisations provide this support best through the consistent delivery of three major types of youth work: centre-based open access provision, targeted programmes, and detached youth work.

The support needed by local youth organisations to more effectively address youth loneliness

This final results section explores the additional support youth workers request to enable them to more effectively address youth loneliness. We identified seven areas of support:

  • Youth workers need clarity on what the accepted definition of youth loneliness is, and what the strategy and vision is for addressing it;
  • Youth workers are clear that young people must be at the centre of developing solutions and responses to youth loneliness;
  • Youth workers request renewed and specific funding to deliver more and better relationship-based work with young people;
  • Youth workers think that more needs to be done to help them reach young people who aren’t currently engaging in local youth organisations, both through detached youth work and better referral-in processes from other organisations working with young people;
  • Youth workers would value advice, guidance and resources to help raise awareness of the issues of loneliness;
  • Youth workers would value programmes, activities and resources that specifically address youth loneliness;
  • Youth workers would value better support and pathways to refer young people to health, social care and other specialist providers when they need it.