Jul 11, 2019

When you can't afford travelling to work

Professional mingling
Professional mingling

It has been an exciting couple of months here at Drive Forward with 47 young people moving into employment, 22 continuing their education or training, and 50 individuals developing their skills during internships and work placements since the beginning of the year.

Without your vital support, many of these young people would not have been able to take this next step in their lives. Thank you for believing in them!

Karlon, 21

Karlon is one of many young people accessing Drive Forward in one of our service Hubs across London. Most of the care-experienced individuals working with us live quite a distance away from central London, and coming into our offices in Waterloo would cost them valuable time and money. That’s why, since 2014, our Employment Consultants have offered 1-2-1 employability and career support alongside Leaving Care Teams, Social Services and Job Centres across Greater London.

Two years ago, Lambeth Council decided to integrate our work into their own programme aimed at supporting care leavers into independence. The Step To Success Programme supports young people leaving care in Lambeth into sustainable employment, education and training. That’s how Employment Consultant Heaven met Karlon last year.

As he had been working before, Karlon knew what he wanted and was motivated to put in the effort. Their work together was therefore very much focused on finding suitable employment for Karlon to enjoy and progress in.

He started an apprenticeship in formwork earlier this year, and so far, is enjoying the experience and the job very much.

„I’ve worked in construction before, but I didn’t have a job for quite a while. So, I’m still getting used to waking up early in the morning and stuff like that. I’m slowly getting the hang of it.“

However, before getting this job the 21-years-old was on Universal Credit, which left him with £250 per month to budget for everything apart form rent. „I’ve been in quite a bit of debt for quite a bit of time... And sometimes you do end up running out of that £250... like two weeks or one week before you get paid.“ In those cases, Karlon would have to go and ask for help from friends and family, which made him feel a little bit embarrassed.

When Karlon started his apprenticeship, he found his workplace being in one borough and his college being at the other end of the city, facing a potential cost of £6.20 per day in travel only. Being on UC, he would have been unable to commit to the job. Knowing of his financial situation, Heaven preempted this potential challenge and offered Karlon support from the Closing the Gap fund.

„I didn’t have that much money for me to afford to go to college and back... When I said that I needed money for travel, Heaven has actually given it to me, without saying anything about me having to pay it back! ... That helped me a lot and I was on time for my college and never turned up late, or didn’t turn up at all because I didn’t have the money.“

Andrea, 21

After a gruelling and intense interview process which involved multiple applications, phone interviews, face-to-face interviews and presentations, Andrea gained a prestigious internship with the Scottish Government Offices in London.

But Andrea’s journey hasn’t always been that smooth. When she joined Drive Forward, the then 20-year old felt stranded; „At that time, I was stuck; I was at a point where I could not move forward on my own. I needed help.“ She had just dropped out of university (due to financial as well as wellbeing issues) and had no idea where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do.

„When I met my Employment Consultant Nicholl in January, we immediately got to work. She helped me explore my interests and career aspirations and gain a better idea of where I wanted to go. We began working on my CV and writing role-specific cover letters; and before an interview, we would meet and she would coach me 1-2-1 to help me present the best version of myself.“

After only 2 months of working with us, Andrea was offered a paid internship with Hill+Knowlton Strategies -a global public relations consulting company.

„I got to work within the healthcare and sports sector. I got to learn about various pharma companies, was involved with the campaigning of various health care events for things such as Rare Disease Day. I also got to help with the preparations for Adidas campaign for the women's world cup adverts!“

With this and some other experiences in the bag, Andrea was a perfect fit for the Admin Support Internship with the Scottish Government in London.

But after the initial elation, Andrea then quickly realised that she had no money to travel to work before her first pay day. Instead of Andrea having to bring this issue to her brand new employer, DFF were able to provide Andrea with the money through the Closing the Gap Fund.

„It falls within my responsibilities to ensure that everybody within the organisation is able to do their jobs as smoothly as possible. I’m responsible for managing the room booking system; I manage the Director’s calendar, keep an eye on stationary stocks etc. I have further gained experience in event management, facilitate well-being activities for staff (Office Yoga!) and administer payments. I even met the Scottish Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans!“

Mercedez, 24

Mercedez is 24 years old, lives in North London, and is currently doing fantastically at a summer work placement with our new corporate partners at Superdrug.

Put into care at the age of 16, the young woman had her fair share of troubles and challenges in life. Nevertheless, she managed to gain and sustain several jobs over the past couple of years including admin, retail and bartendering roles. Her experience, natural and polite demeanor made her the perfect candidate for a brand new internship programme with Superdrug, which has been developed around the needs and career aspirations of each young person. In Mercedez‘ case, she is working with the Business Development team, to learn more about the ins and outs of a large retail company.

Upon starting the placement, Mercedez had been in touch with her Employment Consultant expressing her anxieties and serious concerns that she may have to turn the opportunity down regardless of how hard she worked to get it (doing a Skype interview all the way from Jamaica!) and what it could do for her future career prospects.

It is thanks to your fantastic support, that Mercedez didn’t have to miss out on this opportunity she so genuinly deserved.

1-2-1 support
1-2-1 support


Apr 15, 2019

The route/s to success

Interview prep participants and volunteers
Interview prep participants and volunteers

Since the beginning of the year, over 70 young people joined Drive Forward, eager to achieve their career goals and move forward in life. Yes, they may come out of foster care or have grown up in children’s homes, but they don’t let their past define them and are prepared to take on any challenges that come their way. And so, over the past 4 months, 27 young people have successfully moved into employment, whilst another 25 care leavers have gained valuable work experience.

For some of them, this fantastic success wouldn’t have been possible without your commitment and support. Thank you, for believing in young people!

Keeley, 23

Having lived through years of physical and emotional abuse, a social worker visited Kelley and her mother’s home, and on the same day the 11-year-old girl was placed into care. It took a couple of years before she would be able to trust the people around her, but with the consistent support and love of her foster family, Keeley grew up knowing that there are people who truly care.

Keeley first came to Drive Forward in September last year, after graduating with a degree in Youth Work. Her Employment Consultant Heaven immediately recognised Keeley’s eagerness to advocate for positive change and improvement of the care system. She clearly wants to help other children and young people in care to have better access to opportunities. So, whilst Heaven was helping Keely explore various career paths, she suggested Keeley joined the Drive Forward Policy Forum. Within only a couple of weeks, Keeley became an active member of the group and was admired and valued by her peers. She helped create a shared vision for a more equal society and participated in round tables and consultations informing and educating policymakers about how their work is perceived on the ground.

Keely’s main goal was to work with the youth, this therefore meant that she took full advantage of regular 1-2-1 support sessions with Heaven, who pointed her towards suitable opportunities and introduced her to different companies. One of the proposed opportunities was a full-time Training Assistant role with a financial advice charity in London. Looking at the job spec, Keeley instantly knew that this was the right place for her to develop her skills and kick-start her career.

So, Heaven and her got to work. They perfected her CV, put together a convincing cover letter, and once Keeley got invited to an interview, they practiced her presentation skills. All the hard work paid off and Keeley is now working with young people, including care lavers, to help them effectively manage their money and transition from care into independent living.

Before she could get started making a real difference to young people’s lives, Keeley had to overcome her own challenges, one of which was financial. She had only just moved house and had to manage the expenses that come with such a big step e.g. buying the basics for her own household, getting new carpets fitted etc.

However, regardless of the fact that Keely had savings, due to the fact that she lived in zone 3 and her new workplace was in zone 1, it turned out that Keeley was not prepared to flock out £200 a month to travel to work and back every day.

“I so wanted this job! It was just an unlucky coincidence that it came along at a time where I was a bit tight. I know that I’m strong and independent and I’m sure I would have found some way to make it work, even if that meant taking on a weekend bar job or something. But thanks to Closing the Gap I didn’t have to! It was such a relief when Heaven told me that they would help me. And the job is going really well and I’m learning a lot, so thank you!”

Joe, 26

Joe’s journey with Drive Forward is a unique one, as he is following in the footsteps of his twin brother Peter (whose story you read last year!). Peter, who is now working as a Junior Accounts Executive in a reknowned PR firm in the City, has been working with Drive Forward since 2016, doing work placements in various companies and building his professional networks. His brother Joe, on the other hand, was in a more challenging position at the time. Nevertheless, he picked up on Peters successes and eventually joined us in 2018. Having heard all about the fantastic opportuntities our partners offer to motivated young people, especially in the advertising sector where his brother started out, Joe decided to give the creative industries a shot. He attended an aim Higher Day with our partners at J. Walter Thomposon in Knigthsbrigde and immediate fell in love with the friendly and supporting environment and vibe. Eager to get a foot in the door, it took Joe less than a week to complete the application form and start preparing for the job interview.

On the day, his enthusiasm, motivation and genuine interest in the industry instantly made a lasting impression at J. Walter Thompson and Joe was offered a 2-month internship.

Joe was so happy when he found out that he would be working in their productions department. He knew that this opportunity could help him to truly turn his life around. There was, however, one big challenge lingering over him. Joe lives in Hershem, which is outside London travel zones. The cost of travel into London and back every single day to get to work amounted to approximately £200 per month! When Joe was given his payday, he calculated that until his first paycheck, he would have to spend a total of £340 on travel alone. As a care-experienced young person managing his own household, Joe didn’t have that sort of money. He was thinking about taking out a loan or asking some friends, but quickly realised, that given his past, the chances of him getting a loan were pretty small. Joe was devastated and ready to give up. He couldn’t believe that after all his hard work and effort to get this job, he would have to give it up because of travel.

So, Joe was very pleased, relived and grateful when his brother told him about Closing the Gap and that Drive Forward could help him financially and enable him to take up this fantastic opportunity.

Today, Joe absolutely loves working at J. Walter Thompson:

„I get to work with different departments and try out different things. It’s a very interesting placement and I’m learning new stuff every day!“

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Interview prep with HR volunteers
Interview prep with HR volunteers
Jan 15, 2019

New Year - same challenges

Akira playing with office dog Bruce
Akira playing with office dog Bruce

Happy 2019!

January is almost over and most of us will have, either comfortably settled back into our daily routine or are still battling through our ambitious New Year’s resolution. What a blast!

For many of the young people working with us, 2019 is a ticking clock. They may turn 18 soon and have to move out of their foster parent’s home; they may finish university and look for the next step in their careers; they may only be at the early stages of preparing their application to the university of their choice; they may be getting their first independent accommodation this year; they may look to progress in their career and much more.

No matter what ambitious goals our young care-experienced people have set themselves for 2019, together, we can support them and help them succeed! Thank you, for believing in their potential and for being a part of their journey.

Akira, 22 – Ambition, ambition, ambition

“[…] from when I stepped into the building and I spoke to my employers I knew that this could possibly be the place for me.”

When Akira met Heaven, an Employment Consultant at Drive Forward Foundation, at a career’s fare last year, the 22-years old had recently lost her foster mum, quit university, moved into independent living and was struggling to get back on track, emotionally as well financially.

Living on your own is „a very bitter-sweet experience and financially it has taken a toll on me; emotionally that has an effect on you and mentally kind of breaks you.”

Before dropping out, Akira studied for a Master’s degree at the London College of Fashion. Despite all the challenges and setbacks in her life, she never lost hope and was determined to succeed within the creative industries. Even when she had to deal with the loss of her foster mum, just a couple of year after her birth mother passed away, she knew that sitting around waiting for the perfect opportunity wasn’t an option. So, Akira indulged herself in her advocacy work, blogging and freelance work to broaden her portfolio. And for the extra push into the right direction, she got in touch with Drive Forward.

When Heaven first suggested an opportunity with one of our corporate partners, Akira was sceptical. She had gone for jobs before and received lots of rejections, which made her wonder whether this time things would be different. Impressing our partners in the interview, Akira completed a two-weeks internship before being offered a fulltime position.

Now, Akira is a Junior Design Manager at Module Media Studios in the City.

“I oversee the clients and all the work that comes into the office, distribute it and make sure that everyone is on task; have a say in how stuff is designed, how stuff is developed, and really look at the progression of the company and building client and work relationships. And I really enjoy it because it’s a really comfortable environment.”

Without your generous support, Akira’s transition into fulltime employment and a career she genuinely enjoys would have been much harder. You allowed her to fully focus on the job and the task at hand, instead of having to look for the money to cover the cost of travel into the city every day.

Jake, 20 – taking the first step

Jake has only been with Drive Forward for a couple of months. However, his drive and determination to move forward in life, have enabled him to progress quickly.

It’s a series of unfortunate events that lead to Jake spending the past 2 years in prison. Now that he is out, he can’t go back to where he grew up; he doesn’t have a GP or a bank account; and he doesn’t have a regular income.

Jake’s goal for 2019 and beyond is to rebuilt his life, from scratch. He just moved into an area that is completely unknown to him; he doesn’t have any friends and the only people he currently trusts are his Personal Advisor from the Leaving Care Team, and Felix his Employment Consultant here at Drive Forward. From the first meeting onwards, Jake has been keen to engage with Drive Forward and take up as many opportunities as possible. He has been a regular guest at our weekly lunch club, where he met professionals from various corporate partners, who he made a good impression on.

Regarding his career, Jake’s interests lie in construction, security, fitness and healcare. He is very realistic and knows that in order to succeed in life, he needs to put in the effort and work hard. Him and Felix looked at many different options available and found an opportunity that immediately caught Jake’s attention: a traineeship in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training.

The main aim of the 12-weeks program is to give young people vital skills needed to work within the health and fitness industry whilst also giving them hands on experience through work placements.

It is thanks to your vital support, that Jake was able to take up this fantastic opportunity and get to the course on time every day. He is in the final stages completing the course and will soon be ready to take the next step in his career.

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