Working together to combat loneliness This pioneering project, supported by the Co-op Foundation through a £25,000 grant from the #iwill Fund, aims to inspire young people to make a positive impact not only on their community but also on their own wellbeing. It also has co-operative values right at its heart, with a new generation experiencing what really makes the co-operative difference so unique. Supporting each other The project has involved creating a support network through the project to bring young care leavers together. Over the summer, the Rochdale and Manchester groups visited a number of community-based projects and organisations including Incredible Edible, in Todmorden, and Pastures New, in Rochdale. All the organisations involved were specifically chosen due to their strong emphasis on giving back to the community – a key focus of the whole project. This gave the young people a chance to see first-hand the difference the social action projects were making to those involved and their local areas, while also picking up inspiration for their own joint community project that they’ll launch as a group later this year with the support of Greater Manchester Youth Network. Work to do A recent government report makes bleak reading for those leaving the care system, with 64% of leaving care services judged by Ofsted to either ‘require improvement’ or rated simply as ‘inadequate’. Feedback from care leavers also highlighted that isolation and loneliness were huge issues, with the lack of a reliable social network throughout their late teens and early twenties also cited as being particularly problematic. Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College commented; “This is a fantastic project that is making a real difference to those involved and to local communities across Greater Manchester. By placing co-operative values like solidarity, social responsibility and openness at the heart of this work we’re inspiring a new generation of young people to work together and tackle the issues that matter to them.” A lasting legacy The project will come to a close at the end of November with a celebration event in recognition of the group’s achievements. Those involved will then act as mentors for any future projects, strengthening the support network and building a future that young care leavers can believe in. Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundation, said: “Isolation and loneliness are real issues for many young care leavers. By funding projects such as the Youth Co-operative Action Group, the Co-op Foundation is supporting young people to talk openly about loneliness, often for the first time, while also helping each other and their communities through youth social action."