Oct 22, 2018

Small change - BIG IMPACT

As the days get shorter and the nights cooler we are once more reminded how much of an impact your support can have on a young person’s life. Over the past months, you have enabled over 20 young individuals to take the next step in their careers, gain invaluable work experience, increase their knowledge, improve their skills and find fulltime sustainable employment. For this, we would like to say a BIG THANK YOU! 

In our last report, we shared the great news with you that our efforts to make corporate partners more aware of the specific circumstances young care-experience people face have paid off. Many of them are now offering to cover young people’s travel and lunch expenses during the time of their placement. Others have even managed to change their payroll procedures in order to be able to pay young people on a fortnightly basis, helping them to ease into a monthly payment schedule. Once again, a well-deserved thank you to all our fantastic corporate partners! 

It is this commitment to improve outcomes for care leavers in London from yourself and our partners, that enable us to do the job we can. And it is also thanks to you, that we’re now able to provide even more support to the young people working with us through the Closing The Gap Fun. For young people from care, having to choose between heating and eating is often the harsh reality, especially in winter. This is why we’ve decided to scrap the fund’s limitation of the first month of work and transform it into a general hardship fund. How can we expect from a young person to fully focus on finding a job if their only concern is how many blankets, jumpers and jackets they can find in order to stay warm in their homes? How can we ask them to perform well, if they’re fighting against constant hunger? We can’t. And we shouldn’t.  

With the changes we’ve put in place, your support will now enable even more young people from care to focus on their career goals and drive forward. 

Joy, 19  - It takes sacrifice to fulfill your dreams 

Joy’s ultimate aim is to be a successful film director. The 19-years old woman is ambitiousdriven and prepared to work hard for her dreamShe enjoys writing scripts and has loads of fantastic ideas for different plotsset-ups and actorsshe loved dark drama independent films and her passion has allowed her to meet brilliant film directors and other professionals in the sector. Joy is determined to network, visit festivals and learn more about the nitty-gritty of the sector and how to gain funding to create a film.  

Joy is aware that it’s going to be a long way before she will be able to realise her goal, but she is certain that it is worth it. She put enormous efforts into writing to production companies and TV stations to gain a placement and increase her insight into production. Her perseverance paid off and Joy was offered a job as a runner with a TV post production company in London. Congratulations! 

However, having no savings in the bank and no financial support from family, Joy worried that the travel to and from work would have a steep impact on her monthly budget. The job itself is only £5,90 per hour with flexible working hours up to 45h a week, but Joy is committed to her goal and willing to sacrifice as much as she can. 

Thanks to your generous support, Joy could accept the job without having to worry about her travel. She gained some valuable experience looking behind the scenes of a post-production company. With this experience on her CV, Joy has now moved on from this position and is eager to find an opportunity with a film production company next year. 

Henry, 22 – small steps to success 

Henry is 22 years old and has already defeated the odds as he has just gone back to uni to complete his degree in Computer Science and Network Communications. He is one of the 6% of care-experienced people going into higher education at the age of 19. 

Having a degree is not enough in today’s job market, not even in a tech field like computer science. What really matters to employers is work experience and the right attitude. Knowing this, Henry was looking for a summer job to complement his studies and gain insight into some of the industries that he wishes to work in later on: financial services, legal and pollical services, marketing and advertising, security, transport, or sales. 

At Drive Forward we appreciate young individuals with a wide spectrum of interests as it allows us to offer them a vast range of work placement and employment opportunities with our dedicated corporate partners. When Henry voiced his goal for the coming weeks, we had just gained a new opportunity with our partners at Lloyds Banking Group. They were offering a 1 week work placement to enable young people to learn more about the workings of daily financial service provision. Henry was very eager to go onto this placement and put a brilliant application together.  

Closing the Gap then enabled Henry to smoothly travel from Zone 4 into the city every day.  

“I cannot even describe how great it was. Every day I spent there was amazing!” - Henriques 

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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


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