An exciting challenge for university students across the UK has been launched in a bid to combat the growing epidemic of loneliness amongst young people.

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is launching The Spark Challenge – a national competition for university students to identify creative solutions to a social issue impacting young people across the UK.

The Spark Challenge is calling on students to creatively share their ideas for how technology can combat loneliness through a one minute video pitch that must present new ways of addressing the issue.

The focus of the challenge will be to tackle the growing issue of loneliness amongst young people, which has a serious impact on their life chances by negatively affecting their mental and physical health, employment opportunities and increasing the risk of criminal activity.

Recent research from Dame Kelly Holmes Trust revealed 7 out of 10 young people suffer from loneliness, highlighting the severity of loneliness amongst young people in the UK.

The national charity, which uses world class athletes to transform the lives of young people facing disadvantage through mentoring, conducted the study in partnership with YouthSight across a sample of 1,013 young people aged between 16 and 24.

The findings underlined the prevalence of the issue, with 72% of young people reporting that they had recently felt lonely or isolated. The research also found a number of key trends based on demographics also such as:

  • Young people not currently in employment, education or training (NEET) were almost 20% more likely to feel lonely than those not categorised in this group.
  • Loneliness is gendered, with young women (75%) more likely to suffer than young men (69%)
  • Young people in Scotland reported the highest levels of loneliness in the UK (84%)
  • Young people in the North of England (78%) experienced higher levels of loneliness than those in the South of England (71%)

The Spark Challenge will take place over four weeks at universities across the UK and TCS employees will be out and about on campuses at ten selected universities to help students film their entries.

Emma Atkins, Chief Executive of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust said: “It’s great to be partnering with TCS on this innovative challenge to make a difference to even more young people facing disadvantage. We work with thousands of young people facing disadvantage every year and a large amount of them suffer from isolation and loneliness for a diverse range of reasons.

It’s a spiral that’s very difficult to escape from, especially as society becomes increasingly disconnected and we witness a decline in large aspects of community. This is where we are excited to see what solutions students come up with.”

Yogesh Chauhan, Director Corporate Sustainability at Tata Consultancy Services said: “We are all really looking forward to seeing what solutions and innovations today’s digital natives dream up to counter such an important and prevalent issue for young people in our society.

Yet, with only 60 seconds to convey their ideas, it will be exciting to see how students will capture their solution to encourage young people to better understand social issues through harnessing the power of technology for the good of others.”

As part of the Challenge, students will need to submit a one minute video by Monday 13th March, which illustrates their digital solution to the problem at hand and highlights how technology can help young people feel more connected to their community.

The submissions will then be shortlisted and selected students will be invited to present their resolution back to both a Trust representative and senior leaders from TCS at a grand finale event in London on March 22nd 2017. There will be a chance to win a range of technology prizes, an insight day with TCS and employability support from expert HR professionals.