The Co-op’s own charity, the Co-op Foundation, has entered into a £2 million partnership with government to bring communities together and tackle youth loneliness.
Announced by the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, (Tuesday 19 June), the funding will build on the Foundation’s existing Belong network of community partners working across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It forms part of the government’s £11 million Building Connections Fund, £5 million of which is being match-funded through the Big Lottery Fund. Applicants supported will help bring communities together, making the most of local spaces and opening them up for community use, as well as helping businesses and local services combat isolation. It will also fund projects that use technology to link those in remote areas and help improve transport connections to make face-to-face contact easier.
In addition to the Building Connections, People’s Postcode Lottery has committed £5 million of players’ money to top up existing grants it has given to charities that combat loneliness. The Health Lottery will give out £4 million to charities that work to improve social links in disadvantaged areas across England.
Funding administered by the Co-op Foundation will be specifically focused on supporting projects that tackle loneliness among young people. The Co-op Foundation has been focusing on this issue for the last 18 months, ever since research revealed that 16 to 24 year-olds feel lonely more often than other age groups.
Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: “Feeling lonely or isolated can have a profound and devastating impact on people’s lives – it can affect anyone of any age and from any background. But just as loneliness can affect any of us, so any of us can help to overcome it. The new funding set out today will make a big difference, helping more people to establish and maintain connections. This will build on work already going on, including through the second Great Get Together this weekend, which will see people up and down the country celebrating the strength of their communities. This is just part of Jo Cox’s legacy, and I am determined we continue to take this forward. That’s why we need to do all we can to tackle loneliness, and our forthcoming strategy will build on today’s funding.”
Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, said: “This funding will support charities across the country that are fighting against loneliness. It will help improve people’s lives and create a shared society for the future. I am incredibly grateful to our funding partners for their support. There is no single solution to this issue, but together we will reduce stigma around loneliness and build on Jo Cox’s legacy.”
Allan Leighton, Chair of the Co-op, said: “The Co-op knows through its own research that loneliness is not the preserve of the elderly, it can affect people at different life stages. Through my involvement with the Co-op Foundation I’ve seen how it has brought attention to the widespread, but long-overlooked issue of youth loneliness. I’m delighted that the Foundation is partnering with the Government on the Building Connections Fund, to invest £2 million in projects that bring young people together, develop their skills and help them get more involved in positive activities. Through this we will learn more about what works in tackling some of the root causes of long-term loneliness, helping young people live healthier, happier lives.”
Jamie Ward-Smith, Chair of the Co-op Foundation, said: “The Co-op Foundation is working to connect and empower 5,000 young people to tackle loneliness in their communities. Our new match funding partnership with the Government, announced today, will help us build on this, extending our network of partners and reaching even more young people. We believe youth loneliness is best tackled at community level, by working with young people to overcome the stigma around this issue and helping them shape their own solutions.”