Co-op helps to invest a further £7.5 million into the Peer Action Collective giving 10–25-year-olds a voice and the chance to make their communities safer

Youth Endowment Fund, Co-op, and #iwill Fund invest a further £7.5 million into the Peer Action Collective.

By Max Goodman

Posted: Monday, 20th March 2023 1:00 pm

The Peer Action Collective (PAC) aims to give young people the chance to make their communities safer, fairer places to live.
The Peer Action Collective (PAC) aims to give young people the chance to make their communities safer, fairer places to live.
Moments that matter

The Peer Action Collective (PAC) is a ground-breaking network of young people, led by 120 Peer Researchers and 1,600 Changemakers, who have so far reached over 4,600 young people through their work.

The new £7.5 million investment from Youth Endowment Fund, Co-op and the #iwill Fund will see PAC deliver youth-led research and social action projects for a further five years.

The long-term investment comes as PAC's first research report, based on insight from over 4,600 young people, reveals young people worry social deprivation, compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, will negatively impact their safety and employment prospects.

Co-op, the Youth Endowment Fund, and the #iwill Fund are today (20 March) announcing a further £7.5 million investment into the ground-breaking youth-led network, the Peer Action Collective (PAC) to further support young people to make communities safer and fairer.

The Peer Action Collective (PAC) aims to give young people the chance to make their communities safer, fairer places to live. It is funded by Co-op, the Youth Endowment Fund and the #iwill Fund (a joint investment between The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport).

The new investment will see PAC continue for another five years with the goal to positively impact the lives of over 11,000 young people in England and Wales through peer research and social action. By 2028 Co-op, the Youth Endowment fund and the #iwill Fund will have invested £12.7 million into the PAC, creating long term and sustainable social action to help young people access opportunities and live a life free from violence.

The new investment comes as PAC publishes its first research report. The findings are based on insights gathered by 120 peer researchers, aged 16 to 25, and involving 4,600 participants (aged 10-20). Trained and supported by The Young Foundation, the peer researchers found that young people across England and Wales are experiencing violence in their communities and facing discrimination, which they attribute to:

  • Social deprivation and lack of opportunities. Young people fear the cost-of-living crisis and increasing financial challenges will lead to increased crime and violence.
  • Relationships with peers, friends and family. Many young people spoke about the need to fit in with their peers and how this contributes to an environment, particularly in schools, where they feel pressure to fit in and go along with others.
  • Availability of physical safe spaces. Young people shared that where they previously were able to meet in youth clubs and through other organised activities, cuts to funding for these services have led to a limited number of safe places for them to socialise.
  • A lack of mental health support. Young people have spoken about the challenges of finding and accessing appropriate support for mental health. They described feeling that their mental health was not taken seriously, culminating in frustration and resentment.
  • Gender, LGBTQ+ and race inequalities. Young people have spoken out about how different aspects of their identity impact on experiences, people talked about disability, neurodiversity, socio-economic background, and most commonly gender, sexuality and race.
Explaining their reasons for being part of the PAC, a Peer Researcher from the East of England said: "Us young people are shut out so often, and this project has provided us with space to speak up. Not only do we help facilitate what other young people want, we can share our ideas and put them into action. We can make change to the issues that are really impacting us, issues that people in power seem out of touch with."

PAC opportunities

Research from the ground-breaking PAC report reveals eight areas where young people want support to make their communities safer and fairer:

  1. 'We want you to deal with the small stuff.' Young people want to see us stop ignoring 'low level' bullying and homophobic, racist and sexist remarks online or in-person.
  2. 'We need access to and knowledge of opportunities that are accessible to us.' The cost-of-livingcrisis has only increasedthe urgency of needing access to meaningful employment.
  3. 'More youth friendly spaces would contribute to how safe we feel.' Having access to appropriate physical space contributed to how safe young people feel. Young people need more places to go where they are not competing for space and are supported by adults that they trust.
  4. 'Schools need to feel like safe spaces and should help prevent violence.' Young people want their education system to help build a more tolerant society and prevent violence early on.
  5. 'Mental health support should be easy to access.' Young people need access to mental health services that are responsive and offer early intervention.
  6. 'Young people should feel safe on social media.' Young people want to feel safe and protected online, especially on social media. They want to know that they can report inappropriate content and it will be managed appropriately and quickly.
  7. 'We need you to consider the inequalities and lived experiences of young people to find solutions to youth violence.' Young people's identities shape the way they experience youth violence and inequalities and must be recognised when working to reduce it.
  8. 'Young people should be partners in developing solutions to change' Engagement needs to be genuine, with a commitment to implementing change.

To launch the new research findings, 20 young people from across PAC will be presenting their findings and recommendations at an event in the House of Commons today (20 March) to an audience of MPs, Ministers and senior stakeholders from across the business and charity sector. They will make eight recommendations for change and ask for people to pledge to join them with their support.

Co-op is investing £2.5 million into the PAC through funding from its members via the Co-op Community Partnerships Fund and is a core part of Co-op's commitment to creating fairer access to opportunities for young people. It follows the recent launch of its national charity partnership with Barnardo's to support 750,000 young people aged 10-25 years old to help improve their mental wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem, in addition to improving their access to basic needs, such as food.

Rebecca Birkbeck, Director of Community and Member Participation at Co-op said: "Our work in our local communities has shown us the positive, long term impact young people can have when they are given opportunities to act on the issues they care about.
"The research from the young people in the Peer Action Collective lays bare the inequalities their generation are now facing and we simply cannot have a situation where they feel they cannot change their path or improve their life chances.
"At Co-op, our priority is to enable young people to use their voices and take charge of their own lives, no matter where they live or their background. Whether it be through our other youth-led programmes like our Co-op Academies or our new charity partnership with Barnado's, or today through our £4.1m investment in the Peer Action Collective, we are committed to ensuring young people's voices and lived experiences are heard to help create safer communities and the world a fairer place."
Peter Babudu, Assistant Directr of Research and Youth Understanding at the Youth Endowment Fund said: "The Youth Endowment Fund's mission to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence. To do this, we need to understand their lives, the issues they face and what works to keep them safe from harm. The Peer Action Collective is a key part of helping us do this.
"Over the last 17 months, PAC has demonstrated that there's a real appetite from young people to be the change they want to see in the world. We're delighted to announce our long-term support for the project. Some fantastic youth-led initiatives have been born out of the peer research. The continuation of PAC will give even more young people the opportunity to be at the forefront of making change happen in their communities."

The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to a £66 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action. The #iwill Fund is investing a further £2.5 million into the PAC, to help change adult understanding of issues around youth violence, and create social action projects in local communities to improve provision, spaces, and relationships.

Phil Chamberlain, England Director of Strategy, Partnerships and Engagement at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: "Thanks to National Lottery players and DCMS, the work of the #iwill Fund continues to have an incredible impact on young people, providing them with a platform to share their experiences and help inspire positive, lasting change in their communities.
"The National Lottery Community Fund is committed to youth voice and through this additional investment in the Peer Action Collective, we can build on our ongoing work to further understand and inform how to best support young people now and in the future."
Helen Goulden OBE, Chief Executive at The Young Foundation said: "The Young Foundation is proud to have co-delivered this important work. The deeply participatory approach of the Peer Action Collective has uncovered an incredible range of young people's stories, experiences, and perspectives of serious violence. While these can be incredibly hard to hear, we must listen - and take action. They are crucial in shaping a safer, fairer future for young people."

To read the full PAC research report and to join the campaign to help support more young people visit the PAC website and Instagram page.


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