Helping children and young people to stay connected to their community during COVID-19

Social isolation is something we often view as an issue that mainly affects older people. However, recent YouGov research revealed that young people in Britain are much more likely to suffer from long-term loneliness than the elderly, even before we factor in the impact of changes to social interaction as a result of Covid-19.

The research carried out in 2019 found that 88% of young people aged 18 to 24 experienced loneliness to some degree, with a quarter suffering often. Younger people also said they found it hard to make friends, with almost half of adults aged 18 to 24 saying they experienced some difficultly in making new friends.

The Good Childhood Report 2020 from the Children’s Society also showed that since 2009 there has been a continued decrease in average happiness with life among 10-15 year olds in the UK. They also found that happiness with friends is declining, with an estimated 132,000 children aged 10-15 in this country having no close friends, and that many young people feel their life lacks a sense of purpose.

Since Covid-19 started dominating the headlines at the beginning of the year, we’ve all had to make changes to the ways we interact with others and keep connected to friends, family and the wider community. For children and young people who may have already been feeling isolated and struggling to make friends, these changes will have had an even greater impact.

From the way mask wearing, social distancing and the rise in virtual forms of communication affects our human connection, to the loss of touch as a way to convey empathy, love and understanding, it’s easy to see why young people may be experiencing heightened anxiety and feel more fearful of interacting with others.

So how can we encourage children and young people to reach out and make that leap?  

We believe schools need to be providing young people with opportunities, now more than ever, to connect with, and support their local community. When young people engage with their community, through well-planned, safe and meaningful social action projects, there is a double-benefit, both to the community and the young people themselves.  

It’s often said that ‘doing good feels good’. Research has shown that young people who engage in social action have higher levels of wellbeing, feel less anxious and feel more connected to their school or college. They also tend to have stronger personal networks.

The Young Leaders Award is a fully resourced leadership and character education programme for schools that provides children aged 5 to 18 with the skills required to work in a team, make a positive difference and ‘be the change’ they want to see in their communities.

Social action projects like the Young Leaders Award build children and young people’s confidence to express their views, feel heard on the issues that matter to them, then interact with others in their school and in the wider community, to work towards a common goal. By reaching out to those in the community who may also be feeling isolated and afraid, young people are able to build connections and combat their own feelings of loneliness. Taking part in social action also helps children and young people gain a sense of purpose, something we all need to hold on to during these turbulent times.  

Other opportunities for young people to get involved

The Leeds Youth Council is a network of 10 – 18 year olds (or up to 25 with additional needs) who live in Leeds and who are passionate about making a difference. There are currently over 470 members on the Network.

Any young person who lives in Leeds or goes to school/college  in Leeds can become a member of the Leeds Youth Council Network. Signing up is quick and easy and once you are a member you will receive:

  • A welcome pack of freebies and information
  • Invites to events
  • Regular updates telling you about events, new groups and consultations
  • Opportunities to have your say on the issues that affect you
  • Option to apply to join the monthly LYC Working Group and run to become a member of youth parliament

More details to be shared soon about local opportunities.

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