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
Jan 29, 2016

A Christmas Rewards Night for Young Care Leavers

Guests and staff in front of the Christmas tree
Guests and staff in front of the Christmas tree

For most of us Christmas is the time where we get together with our families, enjoying a traditional home-cooked dinner and watching stupid movies with our siblings. For young people coming out of the care system, however, Christmas can be a particularly difficult time, reminding them of what has been denied to them for probably all their lives. Christmas is about solidarity, about community, about people. People are at the heart of our work at Drive Forward and we believe in a strong sense of community.

Hence, one week before Christmas we came together as a community to celebrate a “Christmas Rewards Night for Young Care Leavers”. About 25 young people found their way to a wonderfully decorated dining room at St. Luke’s Community Centre. We were happy to also receive rugby legend Floyd Steadman who brilliantly hosted the awards ceremony.

While we are proud of the progress and success of each young person we work with, we wanted to particularly recognise the extraordinary accomplishments of young people who have shown that hard work, persistency and a firm belief in yourself pay off.

  • The “commitment award” went to an individual who has shown commitment across the board in their engagement with Drive Forward. Their attendance, contributions and attitude were consistently fantastic, and they have truly enhanced the charity with their participation.
  • The “positive attitude award” represents a big thank you to someone who consistently brings a smile to our faces. Drive Forward really enjoys and learns from having this person around, and we are really humbled by the ability of all the nominees to take life in their stride.
  • Any of our young people has done incredibly well to secure a work placement, but some go the extra mile and the feedback that Drive Forward receives from their employer is so excellent that it demands recognition. The “outstanding work placement award” went to someone who did particularly well and managed to become a really important part of a professional team.
  • Drive Forward is amazed by the ability of its clients to progress over time, be it in confidence and self-esteem, as well as practical skills and knowledge. The young person who received the “outstanding personal progression award” has hugely impressed the charity in this respect and Drive Forward is very excited to see what they will go on to do.
  • Initiative is a word that comes up a lot in the world of employment, but it is not an easy quality to build in oneself. Initiative, in its purest sense, means: ‘the ability to assess and initiate things independently’ and ‘the power to act of take charge before others do’. The young person who received the “initiative award” has serious powers of initiative and is an absolute inspiration to work with.
  • The “sustainability award” is a very special award, and all the ‘nominees’ were winners, because they have all achieved something great. Sustainable employment means that they have secured themselves long-term, stable work, despite any hardships and struggles they may have faced to get themselves there. Drive Forward trusts that these individuals will be reaping the rewards of working life day by day, but also wanted to say a huge congratulations and well done to all four winners.

Awards included various classy dinner vouchers, concert and cinema tickets as well as monetary recognition for excellency.

After the awards ceremony our guests, amongst which some members of the charities fundraising committee, enjoyed a fantastic three course dinner.

We received some brilliant feedback from our guests:

“This event made me better understand what Drive Forward is doing. You guys are here for us and support us along the way.” (young care leaver)

“Thank you for a lovely evening last night, it was great to see all the young enjoying themselves, and such a great surprise to see Floyd Steadman - I was telling my boys when we got home, they really really liked and admired him…” (Jan Grandison, member of the Fundraising Committee)

We would like to thank all the fantastic people, including our staff, friends and family, who helped us spread a little Christmas cheer at this difficult time for young people growing up in care. We couldn’t have done it without your support and generosity.

Also many thanks to the local Tesco Express at New Bridge Street for their in-kind donation. A big thanks to ETHOS restaurant in W1W and Lowlander Grand Cafe in WC2B for donating an award each, as well as to Flamingo Group for sponsoring another award.

And of course many thanks and congratulations to all the young people we are working with. You’re brilliant!

We enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner
We enjoyed a delicious Christmas dinner
We had a splendid time at our Christmas party
We had a splendid time at our Christmas party
Floyd congratulates the winners
Floyd congratulates the winners
Encouraging words from the winners
Encouraging words from the winners

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