May 3, 2017

Creating better lives for care leavers

Ready to enter the world of work
Ready to enter the world of work

Since the beginning of this year, more than 30 of the young care leavers working with us have successfully moved into sustainable employment. Another 26 of them have taken the first steps towards the career of their choice and improving their skills through internships and work placements.

Starting on a new job, or going into any kind of work environment for the first time, is undoubtedly challenging for all of us, but especially for a young person. They have to adapt to new surroundings, interact and get along with new colleagues and managers, and get used to a new routine. In this respect, being a care leaver only adds additional barriers, including a lack of financial security when moving into employment.

It’s thanks to you and your generosity, that young care leavers like Clara and Lynette are able to embark on exciting careers, without having to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Thank you, for believing in them and supporting their potential!

Clara, 24

Struggling with her mental health, Clara has been claiming benefits ever since she turned 18. One day, her social worker introduced her to Sam, one of our Employment Consultants. Sam works in our Hub in Enfield once a week, collaborating with the local JobCentre and Leaving Care Team. This way, young care leavers have easier access to 1-2-1 support and the opportunity to get to know our organisation before coming down to our central London offices.

Clara and Sam got straight to work and after some individual sessions, networking events and a successful work placement with one of our corporate partners led to Clara securing a job as an administrator.

Clara soon had to realise that the support she was getting through ESA was not enough to pay for her daily travel expenses to and from work. When payments suddenly stopped completely before she had received her first pay cheque, she couldn’t afford her food anymore.

The Closing the Gap fund enabled us to support Clara with £131 to pay for food and travel to bridge the gap between her starting work, signing off benefits, and receiving her first pay cheque.

Lynette, 22

When Lynette first came to us in January, she was in receipt of ESA. Her claim, however, wasn’t renewed, meaning that she had to sign up for JSA (Job Seekers Allowance). Having participated in several of our events including Assessment Days with Premier Inn and Aim Higher Days with JWT, Lynette didn’t want to just sit and wait anymore. She wanted to get out there and start a career.

When she had secured work experience with one of our corporate partners, the JobCentre advised her to apply for Income Support, because she wouldn’t be eligible for JSA whilst working. With her ESA having stopped, Lynette didn’t have any financial means to support herself until her claim would go through. In the meantime, we made use of the Closing the Gap fund so that she could afford her food and essentials. Anticipating her soon to start work experience, we also provided her with a set of smart clothes and shoes, so that she could make a great impression on her first day.

When Lynette learned that her application for Income Support was refused, she was at the same time desperate and furious. “I was told that I wasn’t eligible for JSA because of the 2 weeks work experience I wanted to do – it’s work after all. Now they’re telling me that I can’t claim Income Support because 2 weeks is not long enough to work to claim it. What am I supposed to do?”

Examples like this demonstrate, how the current social security system is ill-equipped to adequately cater to the specific needs of young care experienced people. Instead of encouraging them to move into training and employment, it often creates additional barriers, hindering them to becoming truly independent.

Committed to driving change

As mentioned in our last reports; our Ambassadors have been collecting case studies and raising awareness about how current social policy is affecting care leavers’ lives.

After several meetings with policy makers and MPs, the group presented their case in the House of Lords last December. Tying in with the discussion of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, they then joined forces with the Drive Forward team and produced a policy brief, which was then sent to MPs and decision makers. You can find some more details on our Ambassadors and the work they do on our website.

Thank you to 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. It also means that the next £10,000 donated to the project will be matched 100%, as long as that we raise the same amount over the next 12 months!

Ambassadors driving policy change
Ambassadors driving policy change

Links:

Feb 1, 2017

Your impact on young peoples' lives

Drive Forward Lunchclub
Drive Forward Lunchclub

Your support has a lasting impact on young peoples’ lives

Since our last report in 2016, you helped us raise £1,050 to support care leavers to transition into sustainable employment. With your generous donations, you have enabled Anna, Colin, Patrick, Ahmed, Claire, and many more to attend job interviews, travel from and to work, paying their bills and not go hungry whilst waiting for their first paycheck.

Thank you, for your commitment and ongoing support, and for believing in young peoples’ potential to succeed!

The following stories are examples of how challenging life can be for a young care leaver starting out in their career. They showcase the cracks in the social security net and the gaps within the system. They also represent young peoples’ determination not only to survive but to make positive changes and grow.

Anna, 19

When Anna started her apprenticeship with one of the top consulting agencies in the city, she could not have been happier. What she had not taken into account were her benefits stopping over night. Anna was renting a room for £700 a month because Croydon Council were not able to provide her with social housing when she moved out of care about a year ago. On her apprenticeship, she was earning £940 a month. This effectively left her with £240 to cover bills, food, travel etc. The situation got worse when Anna was given 2 months notice from her landlord just after she had applied for Universal Credit. It was just before Christmas and finding a new place to stay proved difficult. “I didn’t have the money to put down a deposit!” One week before she was supposed to move out of her home, her Universal Credit application came back negative. Social Services advised her to sit out a formal eviction process; something Anna had no intention of doing. This is when Anna came to our offices, clueless about what to do next. Thanks to all of you who support our Closing the Gap Fund, we were able to help Anna and pay £200 towards her deposit. She moved into a new home by the New Year.

Colin, 24

Colin arrived in the UK by himself as an Afghan refugee at the age of 16, suffering from severe anxiety and PTSD. He left care at 23 and has been on ESA ever since. In his latest assessment, Colin was marked ‘fit for work’. It is not as if Colin did not want to work, in fact, he was just sitting his exams for a CSCS card in order to follow his passion and go into construction. However, when ESA stopped, Colin did not have any money to spend on food, travel or heating. “At least I had a roof over my head, living in social housing. But I didn’t know what to do next.” Knowing that a JSA application could take up to 6 weeks, his Employment Consultant at Drive Forward immediately applied for emergency support from Lambeth Council. However, Colin could only apply for this kind of support once, leaving him penniless once again. “They told me to borrow money from friends and family. But I have no family and my friends don’t have any money to spare either.” Through the Closing the Gap Fund, we were able to support Colin with £57 a week over a period of 5 weeks. In this time, he completed his CSCS training, successfully applied for an apprenticeship in construction and received his first pay package.

Patrick, 20

Patrick always wanted to go into retail. He had worked as a shop assistant before and liked the sales environment. When he joined Drive Forward in October last year, we immediately signed him up for an Assessment Day at Hotel Chocolat. Unsurprisingly Patrick did brilliantly on the day and was offered a Sales Adviser role, which he started mid-November. With payday being set at the end of December, and his JSA having stopped the minute he started work, Patrick was left with no money in the bank. At first, his Employment Consultant put Patrick in touch with his local food bank. Then, he contacted REES Foundation, who provided financial support towards Patrick’s travel expenses. The situation became worse when Patrick lost his job just before Christmas. Although he immediately applied for JSA, we knew that his claim would not go through until the New Year. The Closing the Gap Fund enabled us to support Patrick with food and essentials until early 2017. Patrick has just attended another Assessment Day event and will start work experience with Premier Inn hotels next month.

Getting to the bottom of the problem

Whilst the fund was initially set up as a response to care leavers facing financial constraints when moving into employment, we also understand that treating the symptoms is not enough. In order to mitigate the problem in the long term, it is necessary to understand the root causes, on the individual’s side as well as on the policy side. Therefore, we have started a research project and our Ambassadors have been collecting case studies from care leavers across London.

We still have a long way to go, but we are confident that with our Ambassadors’ dedication and your continued commitment, we are able to make change happen!

Thank you!

Premier Inn Assessment Day
Premier Inn Assessment Day

Links:

Aug 22, 2016

Closing the gap step by step. Interim report.

We raised over 1.000 on GlobalGiving Bonus Day
We raised over 1.000 on GlobalGiving Bonus Day

How ‘Closing the Gap’ came into being? 

Earlier this year the Drive Forward Ambassador group, made up of young people who have experienced our services and gone through our programmes, was established to support our organisation to better tackle care leaver related issues. Ambassadors are invited to participate in youth engagement activities like attending job fairs and university open days, or visiting youth hostels and Job Centres to inform other care leavers about the various opportunities we have to offer. The group also provides a platform for its members to discuss any issues they feel are relevant for Drive Forward as well as for care leavers in general. On the other hand, Ambassadors also take on a consulting role for the charity, offering a wealth of personal experience.  

When we began to experience an increase in young people turning down employment opportunities we discussed this with those whom it effected directly, as well as with our Ambassadors. The young people spoke of the stress they faced when, on accepting a job offer, their benefits were stopped immediately, leaving them to struggle - sometimes for a full month or even longer - until they received their first pay packet. Ambassadors also raised the issue of insecure and unaffordable (social) housing, talking about their own experiences of falling into rent arrears when making the transition from benefits to full time employment.  It was as a result of these frank discussions that the concept of 'Closing the Gap' came into being. 

What has been achieved so far? 

After conducting a couple of case study interviews in order to better understand the issue at hand, and having several meetings with Drive Forward key staff members, Ambassadors as well as external professionals working with social services, we decided on how to structure the fund and agreed on concrete eligibility criteria and procedures on how it would operate. 

Luckily, the timing coincided with the GlobalGiving Bonus Rewards Day on June 15. This meant, that as a 'Superstar' organisation on globalgiving.co.uk we were given the opportunity to match-fund donations made on that day by up to 50%.  

At this point we would like to thank you, our lovely supporters, for your commitment to our cause and the trust you put into Drive Forward. Thanks to you we managed to raise a total of £1.260 between June 14 and June 21 including the match-funds provided through GlobalGiving. 

With our project goal set at £10.000 we still have a long way to go before the scheme becomes fully operational. We have so far been able to make a number of small grants and have also created new links to other organisations supporting people going through periods of financial hardship. These new as well as existing partnerships have enabled us to provide young people with clothing suitable for their particular workplace, or food packages covering their usual weekly grocery shop, we covered their travel to and from work, or sponsored a trip to the hair dressers. 

Next steps 

Drive Forward team and Ambassadors are committed to promoting the project, collecting further evidence, and raising awareness about care leavers' often precarious situation when it comes to the challenges of transitioning into adulthood and sustainable employment. With policy makers recently having made considerable commitments to improving care leavers' prospects, we are confident that our work will have a lasting impact in the longer-term. 

GlobalGiving Time-Release Bonus Day 

We are currently planning our campaign for the next GobalGiving Bonus Day on September 21st, which will offer up to 30% match-funding on donations made on the day. This time, the whole of the Drive Forward team will be involved in an exciting experiment, showcasing some of the daily struggles of so many young people in our beautiful city. 

You can find out what it is that we will be doing by following our social media channels on facebook and twitter, and signing up to our monthly newsletter. Until then, have a look at some of the case studies on our website. 

Discussing salient issues with DFF Ambassadors
Discussing salient issues with DFF Ambassadors
Progress review at an Ambassadors meeting
Progress review at an Ambassadors meeting
 
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