New support for care leavers
By Gemma Raw
Retailer John Lewis has teamed up with Essex County Council to help young people leaving the care system get into employment. The pilot programme, which was launched in June, signposts job opportunities via John Lewis's current vacancies listings, as well as providing additional support, including mentoring and guidance on interview technique. Ongoing support will also be available once a young person has secured a position.
"Getting your first job or deciding what you want your career to be is scary at the best of times but to add being a care leaver makes this process even harder," commented Partner & Progression Specialist Caitlin Cairns via the @jlpartnership Twitter feed. "Our pilot programme with Essex County Council will help them through that minefield, providing career advice and support and potential job opportunities."
Each year thousands of young people leave full-time care at the age of 18. Although support from social workers and other care professionals continues to be available to them, many find the transition to independent living extremely challenging. According to Department for Education statistics, in 2018-19, 39% of 19 to 21-year-olds leaving the care system did not access education, employment or training opportunities.
The John Lewis partnership will further strengthen Essex County Council's support for care leavers seeking employment. The Council's Targeted Youth Adviser and employment advisers work alongside social workers and the young person's Personal Adviser. The Leaving and After Care teams also hold job clubs and drop-ins where young people can get advice and support on all areas of job seeking.
In May 2020, the looked-after children and care leavers' charity Become said that in the month following lockdown they worked with double the number of young people compared to the same period in the previous year. And in November, the Department for Education's National Implementation Adviser for Care Leavers, Mark Riddell, reported concerns regarding increased isolation and loneliness amongst care leavers, a greater complexity of mental health needs, and access to food and accommodation during the pandemic.
In January 2021, a survey of social care professionals by the British Association of Social Workers found that, during the pandemic, only 51% of respondents felt that they were able to carry out their social work roles with the confidence and support they needed.
The Government has announced an additional £51 million for council social care teams to support care leavers. And on 1 December this year, Mark Riddell will be chairing The Care Leavers Event 2021, an online conference focusing on improving outcomes and fulfilling potential for care leavers. Showcasing a series of best practice case studies covering the key challenges faced by care leavers, including housing support, access to employment and higher education, and tackling isolation, the event is open to a range of participants, including those working in frontline social care jobs.