Jul 23, 2018

No news? Good news!

Lucy Elamad, Head of Corporate Engagement
Lucy Elamad, Head of Corporate Engagement

Since April 2018, our new Head of Corporate Engagement, Lucy, supported 27 young care-experienced people into exciting work placmenent opportunities with our 40+ corporate partners across London!

Assisting young people to successfully move into sustainable employment and independence is a team effort and at Drive Forward we’re lucky to have a highly skilled and committed team. Our four Employment Consultants are the backbone of our work, providing vital 1-2-1 support and guidance to enable individuals to smoothly manage their transition into the workplace.

On the other end of our service offer are our partnerships with employers from different sectors and industries, from banking to hospitality, to advertising and PR, to law and construction. What they offer to the young people working with us is the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in different workplace environments.

This carefully crafted and ever developing network of committed partners across the city is what makes the Drive Forward approach so successful and helps the charity stand out. Providing young individuals with the opportunity to make new experiences, broaden their horizons, gain new skills and increase their knowledge, has the power of inspiring a new generation of motivated young people dedicated to making a difference to their own lives as well as for the good of society.

Many of the young people working with Drive Forward would not have had this unique opportunity without your vital support!

The Closing the Gap Fund was established as a response to more and more young people missing out on such invaluable experiences as they feared that they would not be able to sustain themselves throughout an internship or similar work experience. Taking up paid employment, even if it’s just for a limited period of time, influences individual’s benefit payments significantly.

With no other safety net known to them apart from the public benefits system, young people with a background in care are especially prone to getting stuck in the benefits trap!

Thanks to your fantastic support, young people working with Drive Forward don’t have to worry about missing out anymore. They rest assured that the Closing the Gap Fund will support them in times of need, from sorting out their travel expenses, work clothes to covering their food bill until they receive their first paycheque.

Over the past 2 years, you’ve empowered Anna to follow her dream and start a tech apprenticeship with a prestigious company in the city. You’ve helped Colin to successfully obtain his CSCS card and start employment in construction. You’ve enabled Sephora to find a job that fits in with her responsibility as a mother. Thanks to you, Lynette was able to complete an exciting and aspirational work experience programme in advertising, and Peter gained a well-paid full-time position after completing 2 amazing internships with our partners in the city! There’s so many more talented young individuals that you’ve helped to aim higher and therefore we would like to say a BIG THANK YOU!

So, what’s new?

Whilst the past 2 years have seen many young people flourish in their chosen careers, we’ve increased our efforts to find new exciting opportunities for individuals as well as strengthening our longstanding partnerships with employers across London. The knowledge and experience gained through setting up and effectively managing this vital fund, have put us into a position of expertise. This has enabled us to voice strong arguments to improve young individuals’ experience when going into long-term or short-term employment.

Our committed Head of Corporate Engagement, Lucy, has put tremendous time and effort into negotiating bespoke support packages for motivated young people who have gained employment with our corporate partners. They take into account the specific needs of the individual young person as well as the resources and procedures of our partners, enabling them to effectively support care-experienced young people through their work experience. There’s many ways of easing the problem of young people being out of pocket for the first couple of weeks into a job. For example:

  • Offering to pay individuals expenses in the form of travel cards and food vouchers instead of providing them with a salary;
  • Offering individuals to receive payments fortnightly instead of monthly;
  • Advance payments in full or parts of individual’s first month’s paycheque;
  • Reimbursing individual’s travel and lunch expenses on a daily basis.

Support is tailored to both our partner’s and young person’s needs, with this Drive Forward and you, our fantastic supporters, still have a vital role to play. For example, one of our partners has a policy of only reimbursing travel zones 1-3. However, most of the young people working with Drive Forward live outside zone 3, which means that we’ve come to an agreement to split the bill. Another partner usually doesn’t allow their interns to take out pay advances, however, after listening to some of the stories we’ve shared with you in the past and understanding the underlying issues, they’ve found a way around their internal restrictions.

Fostering employer’s sensibility and openness towards the challenges faced by young care-experienced people when going into employment is hugely important to improve young peoples’ perspectives in the world of work. We’re very happy that our partners are paving the way towards a more flexible and consequential equal job market!

young people exploring the world of advertising
young people exploring the world of advertising
fostering presentation skills
fostering presentation skills


Apr 25, 2018

Reality check: There's more than one gap!

Peer support and role models
Peer support and role models

Reality check: We can close the gap today, but there will be another one tomorrow.

Since the beginning of the year, your contributions to the Closing the Gap fund have enabled nine young people with a background in care to take the next step in their careers.

We have disbursed over £1,500 to help them make a professional impression at job interviews, paying for smart outfits and shoes, as well as taken the burden of worrying about travel fares across the city off their shoulders. Thanks to you, these young people could fully focus on their work and making the most of new experiences, instead of constantly thinking about whether to buy food or pay for their travel to work the next day.

There’re many fantastic success stories to be told, and we’re proud of each young person you’ve read about in previous reports. Anna, the talented young woman who despite of having started a prestigious apprenticeship with a top consulting firm, was at risk of becoming homeless just before Christmas 2016. You helped her overcome this challenge and enabled her to follow her passion. Your generosity also allowed Rachael to make the transition from low-paid insecure work into fulltime employment, thereby following her dream of working in Education, Social and Youth Work. You may remember Sephora, who is committed to building a better life for herself and her daughter. Closing the Gap enabled her to budget ahead, easing her coming off benefits and starting fulltime work at the Children’s Commissioner’s Office.

But not every story has a happy ending and we must face up to the reality that most of the young people working with us have gone through some pretty rough patches in their lives. They carry the emotional, psychological and often physical scars of prior experiences with them and have to learn to cope with the impact they have on their lives. We have no doubt that given the right support and opportunities, it is possible for every one of them to create a better future for themselves. We see it happening every single day!

Today, we want you to keep this reality in mind and remember that we’ve all failed more than once in life.

Karin's story

Karin is 18, a care leaver, claiming Job Seekers Allowance since she left care. She has recently moved into semi-independent accommodation, but is still in close contact with her immediate family, which is also dependent on statutory benefits.

Karin’s education was very disrupted, and consequently the only formal qualification she has is Level 1 Horse Care. She was initially reluctant to engage with Drive Forward in late 2017 and only responded to support with identifying opportunities in an equestrian environment.

Such opportunities turned out to be few and far between in the Greater London Area, so eventually Karin gave up this idea and decided that she wanted to work in the care sector. She felt this would capitalise on her many teenage years of unpaid experience caring for her mother’s extensive health requirements.

As her Employment Consultant, Felix acknowledged her decision, but encouraged her to maintain long term aspirations by enrolling for literacy and numeracy courses in the evenings. Karin agreed, and Felix identified a local opportunity with a company providing community homecare for vulnerable people.

After applying Karin was interviewed, and she was then delighted to be offered a role, which she accepted. However, in order to start her new job, she needed a DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service check) and a pair of new work shoes. Karin had no money in her account to afford either of those, but luckily Felix was able to offer her support through the Closing the Gap Fund, which enabled her to buy some new shoes and pay for the DBS check.

Although she enjoyed working with some of her clients, Karin found that working in homecare involved a lot of unpaid traveling time and that some of her clients were too challenging for her to deal with. Within just two weeks, the 18-year-old felt overwhelmed by the realities of the job and quit.

This impulsive decision was made without consulting anyone, not her family, her co-workers, managers or her Employment Consultant. It was a decision made out of fear to fail and a feeling of helplessness.

Unfortunately, this decision had the consequence of invalidating her entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance as she was deemed to have made herself intentionally homeless. The result is that she now has no income to support herself.

Drive Forward remains committed to supporting Karin to maintain her optimism and resilience in the face of these experiences. This will involve advocating that her Job Centre Plus work coach reinstate her entitlement to Job Seekers Allowance, and applying to a local college to gain Maths and English qualifications.

Stories like these happen every day. The decisions we make aren’t always rational and it’s hard to consider every possible consequence, especially at a young age. Most young people will fall down once in a while, and we will help them get back up, again and again. Just like you do with your own children, or any family member. Thank you, for being the helping hand that reaches out to care leavers, again and again!

Of course, we have a success story for you too

Remember Marry, the aspirational young woman who you helped to successfully complete a work placement with our corporate partners at American Express in Brighton last summer? Here’s what she was hoping to gain from the experience:

“I am very much hoping to gain more self-confidence... doing tasks outside of my comfort zone… to gain transferable skills which will enable me to become more flexible in the working world as I will be able to adapt to different jobs with the skills that I will learn from the work placement. Finally, I'd like to be able to expand my circle of connections and networks.”

We’re excited and happy to let you know that Marry gained much more than a boost in self-confidence from this experience and was offered a fulltime position at Amex in 2018! This will enable her to improve on what she had learned at her placement, gain new skills and increase her professional network. To successfully kick off this new chapter in her life, Closing the Gap has supported her with her a one-month train pass to cover her travel from London to Brighton until her first paycheque.

Happy ending, tick!

Allan secured fulltime work after a work placement
Allan secured fulltime work after a work placement
Help them become contributing members of society
Help them become contributing members of society


Feb 16, 2018

Thanks for Closing the GAP last Christmas

Aaron is proud and happy at his new job!
Aaron is proud and happy at his new job!

We know it’s cheesy, but let us start this project report with a huge THANK YOU and a round of applause! “Care Leavers this Christmas” has been the most successful crowdfunding campaign Drive Forward has run so far:

  • We reached our initial 5-week goal of £2,000 in only 12 hours on GivingTuesday
  • Over the course of 5 weeks, you helped us raise over £6,000
  • You are one of 44 unique donors
  • One person is supporting the project on a regular basis giving monthly

And there is more good news to be shared: Last year, GlobalGiving awarded us a Community Grant towards our “Closing the Gap – Empower Care Leavers in London” project. This meant that any donations made towards this project, as well as towards “Care Leavers this Christmas”, were matched 100%! Therefore, your fantastic support didn’t just raise £6,000 from 44 donors, but in effect you raised £12,000 to enable young care leavers in London to become participating and contributing members of society.

Here are some of their stories.

Sephora, 22

Read the full story here.

When Sephora, aged 22, first stepped through the Drive Forward doors in the summer of 2017, her first thoughts were “will they really be able to help me with what I am looking for?” Young people leaving the care system are referred often from one service to the next and not all are able to help them or deliver on promises.

Sephora had just quit working for a care agency, which she had been engaged with since she left care at 18. As a mother of a then 5-year-old, the uncertainty around changeable hours and flexible work times had become too much to handle. She turned to her social worker for advice and was recommended to get in touch with Drive Forward. Sephora wanted to start a new career, which would allow her to establish a stable environment for her daughter. She was looking for a 9-5 job, ideally close to her home as well to her daughter’s school. She started working with Heaven, one of our Employment Consultants, who encouraged her to look at industries and jobs the young mother hadn’t considered before. This included a brand-new opportunity with one of our new partners.

We had just finished consulting with the Children’s Commissioner’s Office to design an apprenticeship scheme accessible for, and tailored to, the specific requirements of care leavers.

When Heaven first suggested the Business Admin Apprenticeship to Sephora, she was unsure. It was outside of her comfort zone as she had not been in an office environment before. However, boosted by Heaven’s belief in her and knowing that she wouldn’t have to go through the application process alone, she decided to go for it and was delighted when she learned that her application had been successful.

There was one last hurdle to face: starting full-time work. Sephora was no longer eligible for housing benefit and had one month to wait until her first pay cheque. She had bills to pay, travel, clothes and food for her and her daughter to think about.

Thanks to your fantastic support, Sephora wasn’t left on the back foot. She was able to budget ahead, instead of scraping by and getting into debt before she had hardly begun.

Three months into the job, Sephora describes her experience:

“It is amazing, it is going really well, I am learning a lot daily… just how the office works… I am happier… Before I worked for a care agency and I did not know if I would have a job from one day to the next. I have a 7-year-old child. There are certain things you have to be able to provide for your home and it is hard to provide these things… I am more relaxed and I have 25 days’ holiday… I can plan for things.”

Aaron, 20

Read the full story here.

Aaron’s career goal is to set up his own business in multi-trading doing plumbing, pipework, decorating, electrics, residential and commercial, a trade he has learnt about from his step-father. When he joined Drive Forward in September last year, Aaron was highly motivated and eager to progress in his career. Together with his Employment Consultant Rachel, Aaron identified work and training opportunities in the building and construction sector and completed a couple of applications. After a short while, Aaron was invited to interview with a newly established construction company and promptly got the job!

Like so many young people working with Drive Forward, Aaron had been classified as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training), which means that he was relying on social benefits. Signing an employment contract, however, put him into a situation where one the one hand, he was no longer eligible for Job Seekers Allowance or housing benefit, whilst on the other hand, not having received his first month’s pay check yet. Thus, he was facing the challenge of tackling a period of three weeks without any financial incomings.

Closing the Gap made a huge difference to my life. When I started my current job, there was a period of three weeks where I hadn’t been paid anything. Obviously, I’m expected to get to work, which costs money, and the job centre told me ‘You’re working now, so we don’t have anything to do with you anymore.’ That’s where Closing the Gap has really helped me, covering my travel as well as other things like food and clothes.”

Aaron started working in late October and loves his new job. He keeps his end goal in mind and still engages in the various after-work activities we offer at Drive Forward to boost his professional and personal development.

“When I’m older I want to have my own business in multi trade. I want to be able to do brick laying, plastering, electrics, plumbing… I had this dream ever since I was 12 years old that by the time I retire, I want to move to Hawaii and build my own house. Yes, I’m going to build my house in Hawaii!”

Nikki, 22

Nikki is a graduate with a first-class degree in Human Rights and Politics from Colchester University. She has been unemployed since completing her degree and came to Drive Forward for help and advice around her CV and finding a job.

Going through different options available to graduates in her field, Nikki decided to apply for a graduate internship specifically aimed at care leavers with the Civil Service. Whilst we supported her throughout the application process and helped her prepare for the interview, Nikki showed a lot of initiative attending our employability skills workshops and sessions with corporate partners, developing her competencies and learning about tools like the STAR technique.

Nikki made it through to the final stages of the process, but unfortunately did not get the position with the civil service. However, she remained resilient and started working as a Christmas temp at the prestigious Fortnum & Mason’s shop in Charing Cross.

Nikki was desperate to work, but was cut off from receiving Job Seekers Allowance on starting her role. On top of this, she was moving house, which put additional stress and uncertainty on the situation. Her Employment Consultant, Rachel, was able to encourage her to keep on with the job, offering to pay her weekly travel costs to get to work through the Closing the Gap fund. Nikki’s Personal Advisor from the Leaving Care Team further managed to provide Nikki with food vouchers throughout December, enabling her to make ends meet until she would receive her first pay cheque.

Your support allowed Nikki to gain confidence and she is now undertaking a paid for training course which is targeted at students wanting to set up their own social enterprise. We are looking forward to seeing her after her course and supporting her develop to her enterprise ideas.

Sephora has found the career she wanted
Sephora has found the career she wanted
It takes more than just skills to be professional
It takes more than just skills to be professional


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