“Leaving home is a challenge for everyone. Most young people rely on their family long after they're 18. Whether it's having someone to ask how to change a fuse, or having the safety net of being able to return home in their 20s and 30s.

 Young people leaving care often don’t have that. They can be almost entirely alone.”

Barnardo’s website

Some good news from the Department for Education last Friday - it was very good to see the long awaited launch of the Care Leaver Covenant from Nadhim Zahawi, the Children’s Minister. This major initiative links closely to The Share Foundation’s work for young people in care, also on behalf of the DfE, and it provides real opportunities for employment and further education.

At present c. 40% of all care leavers become ‘NEET’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) as adults, due to the challenges they face after such an insecure and unstable adolescence. However the Department for Education has made huge strides over recent years, and now has a real prospect of breaking this cycle of deprivation.

This week, as we wait for a Budget which may go still further, we look at the new Care Leaver Covenant and other initiatives designed to bring hope to disadvantaged young people.

The Care Leaver Covenant has established partnerships with over 50 businesses, charities and every government department in England, and has set out its ambition to create 10,000 work opportunities in partnering employers such as Amazon, Rolls-Royce and Barclays over the next ten years.

Making the announcement last Friday, Nadhim Zahawi said: “Young people leaving care have often overcome huge challenges but struggle to achieve the same positive outcomes in life as their peers, which is simply not fair. When we talk about burning injustices, this is what we mean - so we need to be more ambitious for these young people.”

Insecurity can be a challenge for all teenagers finding their way in life, but especially so for young people in care. It’s probably the main reason why they struggle to achieve this ‘same positive outcome’ to which Nadhim Zahawi refers, as a result of lack of family support. That’s why all steps to meet this yearning for belonging, to which we referred in our commentary on 16th April, are welcome; and this government initiative should help greatly - not least in that employment opportunities in themselves also bring the prospect of regular relationships and routines in the workplace.

The Care Leaver Covenant is one of the key reasons why The Share Foundation, one of its earliest partners, extended its standard Stepladder of Achievement scheme for care leavers up to the age of 25: hopefully the certificate issued on completion will help open up employment opportunities. If you're in business, think about signing up as a partner too.

Another excellent initiative to help young people about to leave care is the First Star scheme. This originated in the United States, where the proportion of those going from care to university is just 3%. First Star, established by Peter Samuelson from the United Kingdom, provides a four year familiarisation programme to help young people care aged 15-18 to find a route into higher education. It is operating in 12 universities in the U.S., and has achieved a success rate of 90%: a huge transformation in prospects for care leavers.

St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, which featured in our newsletter last week with its new School of Business and Society, is piloting the First Star scheme in the United Kingdom. It’s now completed its second year working with young people from London and the Home Counties.

Both of these initiatives build on the substantial and large scale ground work provided by The Share Foundation, whose Stepladder of Achievement initiative is now reaching several hundred young people in care with a six step programme embracing literacy, numeracy and financial capability. The Share Foundation is providing the building blocks which can help young people in care go on to achieve further education and employment through the First Star and Care Leaver Covenant schemes.

Mentoring makes this programme particularly effective, because it not only helps to build knowledge but also tackles that yearning for a sense of belonging. So The Share Foundation is continually searching to find local mentoring organisations who can work at local authority level in any of the 211 local authorities throughout the United Kingdom.

In order to provide an overview of The Share Foundation’s work, and to encourage local mentoring organisations, trusts and foundations to come forward, a video has been produced setting the scene. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated: please email [email protected] .

It is through initiatives such as these that we can find real hope for breaking the cycle of deprivation, a key part of bringing about a more egalitarian form of capitalism. It does not remove the need to make free market work for the benefit of everyone, nor to provide much more widespread ownership and participation, nor to offer the prospect of economic freedom for all individuals: however it does recognise that in all new life is the potential to break out of difficult circumstances. And this is so much more achievable if those who have money, skills and business influence use them to help realise this potential.


Gavin Oldham

Share Radio