Youth fund for transforming spaces awards £1.5m

By Joanne Parkes

| 17 January 2019

Projects that tackle youth loneliness including by repurposing underused spaces, are to receive a total of £1.5m in grants.

Young people connect at youth work hub Youth Focus: North East, which has previously benefitted from the Belong programme

Cafes, old libraries and even a camper van are to be transformed into youth clubs, quiet spaces or creative hubs, in some of the UK's most deprived areas.

A total of 144 organisations will receive up to £10,000 from the youth strand of the Building Connections Fund, for innovative projects that create community connections and involve young people in the design process.

The qualifying organisations help young people who either: live in the country's 30 per cent most deprived areas; have suffered bereavement; are a carer; are in the care system; are unemployed or precariously employed; or, have a disability or long-term health condition.
The fund was set up in partnership between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Co-op Foundation; and the Big Lottery Fund.

The youth strand cash builds on £11.5m already awarded to 126 community organisations by the wider fund in December.

The funding stream developed from the government's Loneliness Strategy, which highlighted how those aged between 16 and 24 are "at particular risk of feeling lonely more often".


The youth strand money will go to organisations including:

  • Lambeth Elfrida Rathbone Society, in West Norwood, south London, which has plans to co-design improvements to an old library to create a quieter social space for young people with disabilities.
  • Leading Link, in Bedlington, Northumberland, to take a youth club around isolated villages via a camper bus that will act as a mobile youth hub.
  • Hull FC Community Sports and Education Foundation, which will work with young people to launch "turn-up-and-play" sports activities.
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, for design improvements to a church basement, which they use to run a project for young asylum seekers.

Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation, said: "Spaces where young people can come together to enjoy shared interests are important for building connections and tackling youth loneliness.

"By involving young people in improving local spaces, we're helping to increase their confidence and skills, while also building stronger, co-operative communities.

"We look forward to seeing the impact this funding has tackling youth loneliness across England."

The Co-op Foundation, which provides grants and interest-free loans to organisations looking to grow sustainably funded community spaces, also runs the Belong programme, which aims to strengthen youth services and tackle stigma associated with loneliness.

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