Co-op Foundation invests more than £1.1 million into projects tackling youth loneliness through social action

22 January 2019


Organisations helping young people with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties among those supported through the #iwill Fund

Young people with learning disabilities will be matched with volunteers who’ll help them plan nights out and go to gigs, thanks to funding announced today by Co-op Foundation to tackle youth loneliness.

Mencap’s “Gig Buddies” project is one of 16 schemes recently awarded funding by the Foundation through the #iwill Fund. The #iwill Fund is a £40 million joint investment from the Big Lottery Fund, using National Lottery funding, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. The Co-op Foundation is acting as a match funder.

All projects will receive £70,000 over the next two years as part of a £1.12 million investment by the Foundation - the leading charity tackling youth loneliness in the country.

Other projects supported include Make Some Noise, which will work with secondary school pupils to help younger children move up schools, and Off The Record that will support young people who are LGBTQ+ or who have experience of mental ill health to co-ordinate and deliver campaigns.

Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundation, said:

“Good quality youth social action has a double benefit, making a positive impact on the young people who take part, and supporting others in their community. We’re delighted to be funding such innovative projects today through the #iwill Fund that will help increase young people’s skills and confidence, build stronger communities and help tackle difficult transitions that we know can increase the chances of loneliness.”

The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill campaign - to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people, by recognising the benefit for both young people and their communities.

Social action involves activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, all of which enable young people to make a positive difference in their communities as well as develop their own skills and knowledge.

Co-op Foundation has been tackling youth loneliness through its UK-wide Belong network of partners since 2017. It recently announced more than £3 million of funding for more than 160 projects tackling youth loneliness through the Building Connections Fund Youth strand.

For more information on the Co-op Foundation, visit


For more information or to request interviews with spokespeople, contact Andy Mortimer, Communications Manager at the Co-op Foundation at or 07702 603516.

Notes to editors

Projects funded

● Aquarius: Creating a youth-led network of mentors to run face-to-face mentoring, training events and youth groups for young people who have experience of substance misuse (new partner)
● Bradford Youth Development Partnership: "Mind the Gap" will support disadvantaged young people, including refugees and asylum seekers, to learn new skills and deliver campaigns that help tackle loneliness during the move to secondary school (existing partner).

● Detached Youth Project: Outreach work to boost young people's work skills and confidence and encourage them to get involved in volunteering in their community (new partner).

● Groundwork North East: Young people previously not in employment, education or training will become "Northern Navigators" supporting their peers to access health, wellbeing and employability services (new partner).

● KIDS: A secret shopper programme with disabled young people in Islington to tackle loneliness, evaluate how inclusive local venues are and improve community accessibility (new partner).

● Make Some Noise: Older secondary school pupils will deliver loneliness workshops in primary schools and a family music festival to help tackle loneliness among younger children starting secondary school (existing partner).

● Mencap: "Gig Buddies" will match young people with learning disabilities with volunteers who help them plan and attend nightlife activities together based on mutual interests (new partner).

● No Limits: Train young people who have accessed No Limits’ Advice Centre as "Youth Ambassadors" and helping them to deliver campaigns aimed at addressing youth loneliness (new partner).

● Off The Record: "Freedom" and "Mentality" will support young people who are LGBTQ+ or who have experiences of mental ill health to co-ordinate and deliver campaigns that help their peers (existing partner).

● The Proud Trust: Work with LGBTQ+ young people to run awareness campaigns that improve community cohesion, and support schools with peer support groups and LGBTQ+ resources (existing partner).

● Southend YMCA: "Youth Ambassador" programme helping local young people learn new skills and work with artists, tutors and other professionals to raise awareness of youth loneliness (new partner).

● Torbay Community Development Trust: "Together Days" will support community partners to co-design youth social action events that boost the confidence and skills of local young people (new partner).

● TwentyTwenty: "Journey to work" is a six-month programme of peer guidance and one-to-one support that will help young people struggling with employment be better prepared for work (existing partner).

● Young Minds: The "Youth Activist Programme" will train young people with mental health difficulties to deliver workshops that boost their own skills and confidence and raise awareness of mental health among peers (existing partner).

● Youth Focus: North East: "Big Days" will give young people the chance to attend events they may otherwise feel excluded from, such as alternative school proms and Valentine's Day get-togethers (existing partner).

● Youthscape: Bringing together disadvantaged young people to learn how to cook and help them to organise a community cooking event that builds connections with local people (existing partner).

#iwill campaign ● The #iwill campaign is a collective effort involving over 900 partners from across the public, voluntary, education and business sectors with a vision to make meaningful social action part of life for 10- to 20-year olds by the year 2020, wherever they live and whatever their background.

● The #iwill campaign was launched in 2013 with cross-party and cross-sector support after research into how the business, education, public and voluntary sectors could support young people to engage in social action. The campaign is coordinated by Step Up To Serve, a charity registered in England & Wales (no. 1154588).

● HRH The Prince of Wales is Patron of Step Up To Serve and the #iwill campaign. For more information, visit and follow @iwill_campaign

Co-op Foundation
● Co-op Foundation is Co-op’s charity, set up to help communities UK-wide work together to make things better.
● The Foundation is the leading charity tackling youth loneliness in the UK. Its ‘Belong’ programme aims to connect and empower at least 5,000 young people while also strengthening youth services and tackling stigma associated with loneliness.
● The Foundation provides interest-free loans and grants to eligible organisations looking to grow sustainably-funded community spaces.
● Co-op Foundation is a working name of Co-operative Community Investment Foundation, a charity registered in England and Wales (1093028) and Scotland (SC048102). ●

Big Lottery Fund
● We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.
● We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.
● Website │Twitter │Facebook │Instagram

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and SportGeneral enquiries o Email:
o 020 7211 6000
Press Office o Media enquiries (journalists only) 020 7211 2210 o Out of hours telephone pager 07699 751 153.