Gemma Sills, Plunkett’s Engagement Manager, highlights how community-owned businesses address loneliness and isolation experienced by young people in rural areas

Community-owned businesses across the UK offer opportunities to young people that otherwise would not be available in rural areas. At last year’s Rural Community Business Awards, Plunkett launched its first ever Young Person Award, kindly sponsored by Abri Group, to recognise and celebrate the incredible achievements of young people involved in community businesses, and the outstanding contributions they make to their local community.

While the Awards provided a chance to hear about the positive impact young people are making to their communities, what also became apparent was just how vital community-owned businesses are to young people.

The very nature of a community business is to put the community at its heart – everything it does is for the benefit of the local community, and for a young person living in a rural area that can mean the world of difference.

Isolation and loneliness within rural areas is something that affects people of all ages, and sadly young people are not exempt from the risk of feeling the effects of being isolated and lonely. The recent CPRE and YouGov ‘Young People in Rural Areas’ report highlighted how 63% of young people surveyed agree that feelings of loneliness and isolation is an important issue facing young people living in rural areas.

What was clear from all the nomination stories received in the Young Person category, is that there are young people who want to remain local to their rural roots and who want to make a contribution, but the lack of employment, transport services and unstable digital connectivity are all having a negative impact on their experience of growing up in a rural environment.

All three of the Young Person Award finalists demonstrated how their community business had given them an opportunity to get involved – not just to gain local work and training experience but to feel part of something, to be a part of the community, and the hugely impactful benefits as a result of being involved, brought to them.

Alongside Semley Village Stores, Bledington Community Shop and Jaywick Sands Community Land Trust, who supported the three award finalists, other community-owned initiatives across the UK are also providing life-changing support and opportunities for young people. As the number of community-owned businesses continue to grow, it can only mean that more young people will have the opportunity to access jobs, training and volunteering; to share their skills and enjoy social interaction whilst building confidence and gaining important experiences, which at Plunkett, we see can only be a positive thing for everyone.

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