There are about 80,000 children in care in England, with some 10,000 aged 16-18 years olds branching out on their own every year [1]. The Drive Forward Foundation supports care-experienced young people into careers as they leave care.

Drive Forward want to make sure that care leavers have the support they need to stand confidently on their own two feet and not be thwarted by low expectations of what they can achieve.

“We all remember the day we leave home. It’s a heady mix of excitement and apprehension at striking out in the adult world alone. But the trouble is, some of us are exactly that–alone–without the safety net of mum and dad, or gran and grandad to help dish out a little bit of advice, some support or even just a hug.” – Drive Forward.

Research shows that care leavers face more barriers when accessing education and training: 

  • Only 12% of care leavers participate in higher education, compared to over 40% of their peers [2].
  • Care leavers are also five times more likely to be cautioned or convicted and about 37% of people in young offender institutions have experience in local authority care [3].
  • Almost 50% of children in care suffer from a mental health disorder, often related to experiences of trauma, and neglect  [4].

Over the past decade, the Drive Forward Foundation has helped over 2,000 young care leavers into jobs. In doing so, they have identified successful strategies for improving prospects:

  • Tailored and flexible support for each care leaver. Drive Forward understand the diversity in the experiences of young people who have been in care. They know that a one-size fits all approach is not effective.
  • The importance of one-to-one relationships between employment consultants and care leavers. Mentoring is provided so that care leavers can better navigate the world of work and progress quicker in their career. These relationships are consistent, positive, inclusive, and persistent.
  • An awareness of trauma. All employment consultants have received trauma-informed training. This helps them to develop an understanding of why young people behave in particular ways. For example, why they might not turn up to an interview at the last minute. This training has been extended to corporate partners who are providing care leavers with opportunities so that they understand the background of the young person.
  • Aspirational support. Young people often express that there is a lack of aspiration encouraged in the care sector. However, the care-leavers themselves often have very high aspirations and these are harnessed by the employment consultants at Drive Forward.
  • Providing a sense of community and belonging: Drive Forward work hard to connect young care leavers with each other through networking events, so they know that they are not alone in their situation.

Additionally, Training and Development courses are offered to young people. These include training like mindful yoga, writing convincing applications, and interview preparation.

Drive Forward provide exclusive career opportunities for the young people they help. They can gain access to a pool of exclusive work placement and job opportunities with the charity’s partners across London.

Partnership Working to Create Employment Opportunities

Drive Forward work with a range of partners in the private and public sectors, providing employment opportunities for young care-leavers. Partners range from large organisations like Lloyds Bank and Superdrug to SME’s and startups.  

Partners are invited to become part of the Drive Forward community where they can join groups such as book clubs, coffee and connect sessions, social activities, and FORE (Forward on Racial Equality) discussions with young people.

‘Aim Higher’ days invite young people to the offices of partners. These days aim to build an understanding of different career paths, create networks and access to opportunities.

Additionally, work experience placements facilitated by Drive Forward provide the opportunity for project work, networking, and professional development.

Individuals can also sign up for short-term and long-term mentoring with partners to gain industry-specific advice and professional guidance – to aid the transition to employment.

The Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Foundation Trust Partnership

Drive Forward have developed a partnership with The CNWL NHS Trust, helping care-leavers find a career within the NHS.

They wanted to replicate the Civil Service Care Leaver Internship, which is a year-long training scheme for care-leavers who have an interest in joining the Civil Service. Drive Forward wanted to see what opportunities could be created with other public sector employers.

The internship with the CNWAL Trust offers the London living wage and does not focus on the qualifications and vocations of young candidates, but the values and skills they could bring to the Trust. Drive Forward recognise the value of an internship over an apprenticeship for young people. Internships are accessible, flexible and there is no pressure to achieve a qualification afterwards. On-the-job experience is a valuable tool that these young people will be armed with upon completing an internship.

“This scheme is very close to my heart. As someone who has experienced care, I know how important it is to have opportunities like these to help care leavers get into work, find a supportive workplace, have the same options open to them as everyone else and break down barriers to help them on the journey to become whoever they want to be. CNWL has played a significant part in my journey, and I want others to have the same opportunities. I know that care leavers have so much to offer the NHS; a diverse range of skills and talent; and we in turn can offer them the best possible start in their working life and lots of experience.” – Meera Mistry, Associate Director of Partnerships at CNWL

Ensuring Success

To enable care leavers to have these experiences, both the partner organisation and Drive Forward ensure that adequate support is put in place prior to and throughout the internship.

Drive Forward work hard to prepare young people for the workplace ahead of internships and work placements. They provide training on workplace etiquette and structures.

Throughout the internship, ongoing support is provided and Drive Forward remain a port of call for those seeking advice. The young people maintain access to mentors, usually the same person who mentored them prior to securing an internship.

Partner organisations should have complete buy-in from senior leadership teams, ensuring the team is dedicated to hosting a placement.

The SLT should consider the composition of the placement, training opportunities and possible rotations so that the young person can make the most of their time with the partner.

Progression opportunities after the one-year placement should be considered by both the partner and Drive Forward so that the young person has somewhere to turn when their scheme has finished.

Drive Forward are leaders in equipping care-experienced young adults with the skills needed to enter the working world as they leave care. They have generated a range of valuable partnerships with employers which have helped many young people into employment.

[1] The Drive Forward Foundation

[2] The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) 

[3] Prison Reform Trust. 2017

[4] Barnardo’s. 2017

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Young people leaving care often struggle to find a job as they enter the working world. The Driving Forward Foundation work with care-experienced young people to support them in gaining work experience and finding employment. This article outlines their mission and how they work with a range of potential.

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