Teenagers are all set to tackle youth loneliness at Daisy Chain thanks to a generous injection of cash from the Co-op Foundation and government through the Building Connections Fund Youth strand.

Daisy Chain has been awarded £10,000 from Building Connections Fund Youth strand to work with teenagers with an austism spectrum disorder to improve social activity spaces they access at the charity’s 5.5 acre farm and day centre.

In total almost 100 teenagers will take part in the project to come up with a plan on how to improve both indoor and outdoor spaces and work to a budget to decide what will be of the most benefit to help them build meaningful friendships.

The teenagers will work in six groups and each group will take part in a planned launch event at which they will get together socially and put together creative ideas and implement the final plan. From this they will develop opportunities for new and improved social activities from which they will continue to benefit when they are attending Daisy Chain.

Funding has been awarded from the Building Connections Fund Youth strand. Funding will support organisations to pilot innovative approaches to maximise underused community spaces to help improve access for young people. The aim is to help make immediate progress on the government’s Loneliness Strategy launched in 2018.

As well as involving the teenagers, the improvements made will also have a major impact on over 2,000 families which Daisy Chain continuously supports. Activity days held on weekends and during school holidays are for the whole family and are a key part of the charity’s mission to address loneliness and isolation for those living with autism. The scheme will improve the offer for the whole family and benefit the growing numbers of around 500 children and 44 adults supported each week plus siblings.

Johnathon Pickard, project development manager, said: 'Loneliness and isolation can be a major issue for young people with autism. Having additional needs has been identified as one of the most common reasons for loneliness. Social communication and anxiety are debilitating barriers to making friends and enjoying social situations. At Daisy Chain we have the expertise to bring young people together to overcome these barriers.

'This project will be driven by our teenagers, empowering them to come together and be creative to come up with the plan of what they want to do to help to improve their social environment. It will give them a focus for experiencing building social networks and meaningful relationships. It will also give them a sense of belonging, ownership and achievement which is vital in gaining confidence, self esteem and social communication skills. This in turn helps with integration in the wider community as they start to make the transition to adulthood.

'We are delighted to have been chosen to take part in this innovative and exciting pilot programme which will not only be of immediate benefit to our teenagers at this crucial stage of their personal development but will have a lasting benefit for all the families we support across the whole of the Tees Valley.'

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.'