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!"


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


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


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