Celebrating Care Day 22 – good news stories of care experienced young people progressing into work

Written by Opportunity Sheffield

Care Day is a global celebration of the successes and achievements of children and young people with experience of care. This year’s event – the 7th annual Care Day – takes place on Friday 18 February.

This is an occassion for children, young people and adults to unite in celebrating the rights and resilience of care experienced children and young people, their stories and their achievements.

Supporting care leavers into employment, education and training

In Sheffield, initiatives such as Sheffield Futures’ Project Apollo and Opportunity Sheffield’s Ambition project (part-funded by the European Social Fund) have, over recent years, ensured the availability of accessible employment support provision for out-of-work people who have experience of care.

Such individuals are three times more likely than other young people to be classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training), so it is vital that targeted support is available to help people overcome institutional barriers to the labour market, whether in terms of skills, knowledge, behaviours or support networks.

There can be a ‘cliff edge’ for care experienced young people reaching the age of 18, where resources and support networks fall off dramatically. Interventions such as 1:1 keyworker support, advocacy, confidence building and employability training can and does make a difference, helping to avoid vulnerable people being left to fend for themselves with no realistic prospect of gaining a steady income.

This is more important than ever in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with young people having to come to terms with so many missed opportunities over the past two years.

Ambition Project Case Studies – Care Leavers

Since 2020, Opportunity Sheffield’s Ambition Project has offered targeted employment support to care experienced individuals who are unemployed or economically inactive.

Our Care Leaver contract has, during this period, been delivered by UK homelessness charity Depaul. Between June 2020 and December 2021 the provider supported 78 unemployed individuals and helped 58.9% into employment or a substantial training / education progression.

To mark Care Day 2022 we have included a couple of good news studies from the Ambition targeted support contract for care leavers, explaining how Tensaye and Tawanda benefited from cohort-specific targeted support.

Tensaye‘s story

Frank Groves, a Coordinator on Depaul’s Targeted Employability Support (TES) programme – part of the ESF Pathways Ambition project – focuses on getting Care Leavers into sustainable employment. Here he talks about a recent experience he had with a young man called Tensaye.

“I met Tensaye back in October 2020. He’s a 20 year old refugee from Eritrea who arrived in the UK more than four years ago. Before I started working with him he had struggled to engage with support offered by other agencies and he was beginning to feel disillusioned.”

“I worked with him by adhering to the core principles of IAG, listening, being respectful and providing accurate information relating to his needs. Tensaye was keen to share the story of his journey, which gave me a better understanding of who I was working with and an insight into some of his concerns, many of which were cultural.”

“As I got to know Tensaye a little bit better, I learned that he had a good sense of humour, so I took the time to share a laugh and a joke with him. I’m sure that these more informal conversations that we had helped to put Tensaye at ease and find me more relatable.”

“Tensaye is already volunteering to speak about knife crime prevention which provided great evidence as we updated his CV.  Tensaye has a long-term ambition to become a firefighter and we’ve looked at steps that he can take towards this goal.  For now, Tensaye has embarked on a Security Industry Authority (SIA) course and we’ve also looked at employment opportunities through Kickstart all of which will help build his experience and skills towards his career ambitions.” 

Reflecting on his experience on the Ambition project, Tensaye said:

“Depaul TES has supported me in getting my provisional licence and going on an Security Industry Authority (SIA) course which I have finished and am currently waiting for my SIA security badge.

I’ve received support with an Amazon Care Covenant application with a guaranteed interview. I’ve also had interview/work wear and continue to receive support which has had a positive impact on my life”.

Tawanda’s story

Care Leaver Tawanda, 22, came to the UK from Zimbabwe as a child.  During his teens, while in Local Authority care, his peer group became involved in criminality leading Tawanda to a 3-year prison sentence for drug-related offending.  After serving half of his sentence in custody, Tawanda was released in January 2021 and referred to Depaul’s Targeted Employability Support (TES) project. 

Working with TES Coordinator Frank, Tawanda identified his goals were in employment and a referral made for a CSCS card course.  He completed the course successfully and started applying for job vacancies but lacked confidence in what he felt he could do.

The support from Frank continued, including moving to face-to-face appointments as COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions eased social distancing guidelines allowed.    His self-belief grew with the continued support and Tawanda started applying for vacancies himself, including on the Kickstart placement.

Tawanda was successful in gaining a community assistant role at Greenhill Methodist church in Sheffield, where he has been since May 2021.  By continuing to offer in-work support, Frank has worked with the Reverend Haigh at Greenhill Methodist church and Scott Lavery, the project manager, to promote Tawanda’s acclimatision to work. 

Tawanda said: “I believe there is no limit to what I can do, my self-confidence has improved, at first I felt I couldn’t get a job because of my past, but with the support of Depaul and Greenhill, it’s really made me realise I now have a future”.

Opportunity Sheffield’s Ambition project is part-funded by the European Social Fund