Jan 24, 2018

Together we can Close the Gap in 2018!

Care leavers celebrating Christmas
Care leavers celebrating Christmas

As the first month of 2018 comes to an end, we are looking back at the past year and want to shout out a big THANK YOU for your phenomenal support throughout 2017!

Last year, Drive Forward welcomed 264 new care leavers wanting to start out or take the next step in their career. The young people worked extremely hard, attending personal development and professional skills training sessions, to boost their confidence and improve themselves. They have written countless applications, practiced for interviews with committed volunteers and learned about different industries and career paths with our corporate partners. 97 of the care leavers working with us managed to secure employment in 2017; 59 young people improved their skillset through doing work placements and internships; and 28 young people moved into further education and training.

For many of them, 2017 could have looked very different if it wasn’t for your generous support. Closing the Gap has enabled them to make a lasting impression in job interviews by looking the part; it has helped them to travel to work each day and stay focussed at work instead of going hungry; it prevented them from falling into arrears and sitting in the dark. In short, you have had a lasting impact on many young care leavers’ lives in 2017. Thank you!

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

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.

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


Oct 26, 2017

Empowering care leavers to aim higher!

Interview training session with corporate partners
Interview training session with corporate partners

As the days are getting shorter we hope that you had enough time to soak up the lovely summer sun over the past couple of months. We certainly had a good summer with the team and the young people enjoying the terrace at our new offices in Waterloo!

Energized by the sunshine (and the odd cup of coffee or tea), we saw many enthusiastic young people progress in their future careers. Over the past three months, 22 of them gained full-time or part-time employment, whilst some of them kick-started their career with an apprenticeship. Another 13 care leavers have now started their university or college course, whilst 12 young people are broadening their horizons on work placements with our corporate partners.

Beginning a new chapter in life, especially for young people, can be a scary and intimidating experience. If you’re then confronted with additional barriers that growing up in care brings with it - from insecure housing, to financial instability, to the lack of a social safety net and the general feeling of having no-one to fall back on in case something goes wrong – moving forward in life can appear an unsurmountable challenge.

Care leavers need help to break down the barriers and face up to the difficulties in front of them, and it is fantastic that they can count on you to support them to do so!

Rachael, 21, SEN teaching assistant

Rachael has had an interest in the structure and development of human society and the plurality of communities from a very young age. At 12 years old, she participated in a student exchange programme, travelling to South Africa and absorbing the local culture. Impressed by what she had experienced, she became an Ambassador for the programme, and the following year assisted local outreach teams to deliver training sessions in South African orphanages.

Following a work experience with a national children’s charity, working with children and families with complex needs, she decided to pursue a career that would enable her to improve lives and have a lasting impact on society. Eager to broaden her knowledge, she went on to do degree in sociology.

After graduating from university, however, Rachael was struggling to transition into meaningful employment that would allow her to build her skills and experience. Whilst recent statistics show that graduate unemployment rate is at a long time low, these numbers have to be put into perspective. On the one hand, more and more young adults decide to continue their education and pursue a post-graduate degree. On the other hand, many graduates are forced into roles that don’t allow them to make the most of their talents.

Although Rachael’s previous experience and education put her in an excellent position to independently look for long-term employment, the London graduate job-market is very challenging. Having sent off over 50 applications without having been successful, Rachael eventually took on a job as a sales assistant in a retail store.

When Rachael joined Drive Forward Foundation in September, she was eager to progress her career and quickly took the advice provided by her Employment Consultant in order to find employment in a relevant field. Interested in Education and Training, as well as Social and Youth Work, she polished up her CV and tailored it to each opportunity she wanted to apply for. With just this little extra support, it didn’t take long until Rachael had secured a full-time position as a Special Educational Needs Classroom Assistant at a school.

Without your generous support, her successful transition into this new chapter would have been so much more difficult. With no savings in her account, she was struggling to pay for her travel in order to get to work. Thus, the closing the Gap fund provided her with a travel card to bridge the gap until Rachael received her first pay cheque.

Peter, 25, intern at a creative agency

Peter joined Drive Forward in September last year, whilst he was still completing his undergraduate degree in Social Psychology at King’s College. With his open and ambitious personality, he instantly struck a chord with the team as well as the volunteers he encountered. Eager to learn and make new experiences, Peter took up any opportunity that would allow him to gain deeper insight into different work environments. He attended skills building workshops and several events with our corporate partners to broaden his knowledge about the world of work. His high level of motivation and goal-oriented attitude soon enabled him to secure a placement with J. Walter Thompson. His enthusiasm for the role and eagerness to learn prompted JWT to extend his placement for an additional two months.

Inspired by this fantastic experience, Peter was eager to learn more about the sector and its different industries and he began applying for relevant roles. He had not only made a lasting impression at JWT, but also managed to build and continuously nurture a valuable professional network. It is through the contacts that he made during his placement, that he has now secured another internship for six months with a creative agency in the city.

It is only through your support, however, that Peter is able of taking up this fantastic opportunity!

Living in Surrey, travelling to London every day isn’t only a time-consuming endeavour, but also a very costly one. As our corporate partners, JWT know about the difficulties and challenges care leavers face when moving into employment. They understand the financial pressure these young people endure and have made an effort to change their internal procedures to accommodate their needs. Hence, they would offer interns to cover their travel expenses from day one, regardless of usual payroll periods.

With companies outside our immediate reach, such a level of commitment cannot be taken for granted and young people are often cautious about asking their future employer for support, as they fear negative consequences of disclosing their financial situation. In Peter’s case, he could expect his first paycheque only after having worked for a month. In order to go to work every day, he needed to spend the money he had saved up for rent on his daily travel.

Many of the young people working with us have been in the situation before and not managed to get back on track with their payments despite having taken on a job. Thanks to you, Peter will not have to face this challenge. As soon as we learned about his difficulties, we offered Peter a one-month travel card, so that he will not fall into arrears.

Thank you!

Your donation is still worth double!

Closing the Gap has been awarded a Community grant from GlobalGiving! This will allow us to support even more young care leavers to overcome financial hardships when moving into training and employment. How it works: If we raise £10.000 for the Closing the Gap fund until May 2018, globalgiving.org will release another £10.000 to facilitate young care leavers transition into sustainable employment and independence.

Panel discussion - challenges of leaving care
Panel discussion - challenges of leaving care
Mindfulness course
Mindfulness course


Jul 31, 2017

Together, we can help care leavers thrive!

Budgeting is essential for care leavers
Budgeting is essential for care leavers

It’s been a busy three months at Drive Forward, with 44 young care leavers moving one step closer to the career of their choice. They successfully secured internships and work placements with our corporate partners (Hill+Knowlton, J. Walter Thompson, and Squire Patton Boggs), allowing them to gain insights into the workings of the PR and media industry, the world of corporate law and much more. 25 of them transitioned into full-time and part-time employment, finding jobs across a variety of sectors, from hospitality and administration to construction, retail and law.

Moving into a new job can be a very stressful experience for a young person, especially when they don’t have access to the support and safety net of a caring family. This is why our employment consultants don’t only provide expert careers advice, but also offer a listening ear and a helping hand when times are tough. Whilst they are able to professionally guide young care leavers through the bureaucracy of employment, housing and entitlements, it is you, our loyal supporters, who provide much needed support when it comes to overcoming financial hardships.

Over the past couple of weeks, your commitment has helped four young people kickstart their career, enabling them to travel to work across London ensuring they made a positive impression. The fund has also made sure that these young people were able to have sufficient phone credit to stay in contact throughout the process.

Thank you for believing in young people and your ongoing support!

Merry is 20 years old and has been NEET for over a year, meaning not in employment, education or training. When she first came to us, she did not have any qualifications, and her only work experience was 7 months working as a retail volunteer at Oxfam. “I want to work in administration”, Merry told us last year. Motivated and eager to learn, she participated in a number of training sessions, which boosted her confidence and interview skills. She attended assessment and industry insight days with our corporate partners, practicing her self-presentation and communication skills.

Merry’s determination and drive paid off when she applied for a work experience opportunity with our corporate partner American Express in their office in Brighton. Merry was very excited, but her financial situation was worrying, “I’ve been unemployed for so long and I don’t have any savings.” We are lucky that the corporate partner involved have the understanding about the socialissues facing our young people that they offered Merry the money to pay for her daily commute from London to Brighton. Merry had also just moved into new accommodation, which had been a stressful as well as financially draining experience. In order to save money she had not topped up her phone for weeks. In order to do the work placement Merry needed to be contactable by her employer, especially given her long daily journey.

It’s a small drop in the ocean, but with just £20 towards her phone bill, you have helped Merry to successfully complete her work placement. “I had to call AMEX a couple of times to let them know that my train was running late. They also contacted me one day to tell me that a meeting was postponed. Plus, it was just great being able to check my work emails on the train.”

Emil completed a work trial with Premier Inn which led on to a fulltime position at one of their hotels in the city. Whilst his new job started on the 6th of May, he didn’t receive his first paycheck until the 26th of May. Whilst his rent and bills are covered, Emil struggled with his travel costs of £10.60 per week. He had been using his savings to cover his daily commute during the 2 weeks work trial, but it wasn’t enough to see him through the first three weeks of the new job.

Closing the Gap provided Emil with the necessary funds to get to work and also topped up his allowance for living expenses for that period of time. After all, who wants to go to work hungry?

Chris aspires to a career in administration and IT. Over the past months, he has been keen to build his professional network and learn about the various opportunities the London job market has to offer. He attended a number of employability skills training sessions, improving his interview and self-presentation skills. Consequently, he secured a fulltime position as a receptionist with a travel agency, which boosted his motivation and enthusiasm to work even harder for his goals. When he started employment, his benefits stopped and he struggled to afford his housing, living expenses and travel. To facilitate Chris’s transition into sustainable employment, the Closing the Gap fund provided him with travel to and from work over the first four weeks of his new job.

Anna has come a long way since she first walked through our doors in 2015. At the time, she was just starting to recover from a severe mental health breakdown, which had impeded her from completing her A-levels. Anna had a hard time adapting to a life that didn’t go to her perceived plan and this left her with doubts and fears over her future, “I was very scared… just scared of life in general.” She had missed a year in school, was mentally still unstable and had recently moved house. In order to move on, she needed a new plan, which her employment consultant Felix was eager to support her with.

Anna completed our employability skills training, met many different professionals from various industries and learned about different roles and opportunities in a variety of sectors. The support she experienced from the people around her – her peers, our team, the volunteers – added to building her self-belief and she secured a work placement with our partners at Premier Inn.

Having found her motivation and will to move forward again, Anna applied for two highly prestigious apprenticeships with Accenture and the DCMS (Department for Media and Sports).  She was successful and both companies offered her the apprenticeship.

It was a hard decision for Anna to choose which she wanted to pursue and she was eager to factor in every aspect of her future position, including her financial stability. She had to think about the time it would take to complete an apprenticeship, her monthly income and expenditures including rent, bills, food, as well as transport and leisure. Eventually, she decided to pursue the apprenticeship with the DCMS, as this allows her to stay in her accommodation and still cover her monthly expenses.

To kickstart Anna’s career within the Civil Service, the Closing the Gap fund has provided her with a set of smart clothes and shoes. First impressions do count after all!

100% match-funding from globalgiving.org

Closing the Gap has been awarded a Community grant from GlobalGiving! This will allow us to support even more young care leavers to overcome financial hardships when moving into training and employment. How it works: If we raise £10.000 for the Closing the Gap fund until May 2018, globalgiving.org will release another £10.000 to facilitate young care leavers transition into sustainable employment and independence.

Interview skills training
Interview skills training
"I want to be successful at Premier Inn!"
"I want to be successful at Premier Inn!"


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