From education to employment

Government funded Care Leaver Covenant asks businesses to show care leavers more empathy

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, delivery partner of the Care Leaver Covenant

Government funded Care Leaver Covenant asks businesses to show care leavers more empathy

BUSINESS leaders must show care leavers more empathy, is the message from the government funded Care Leaver Covenant during National Care Leavers’ Week (26 October – 1 November).

The Care Leaver Covenant – funded by the Department for Education and delivered by social value agency Spectra – is a promise made by private, public or voluntary organisations to provide support for care leavers aged 16-25 to help them to live independently.

Throughout National Care Leavers’ Week, the Covenant is encouraging business leaders to adjust their practices to cater for young people who have aged out of care and is highlighting the work of its partner organisations who are already doing so.

Approximately 10,000 young people leave care each year. Around 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) – compared to 13% for this age group overall; 25% of the prison population is care experienced.

Aiming to correct some of the inequalities care leavers face by partnering with the Covenant are popular high-street bank Metro Bank, the UK’s market leading foodservice business, Compass Group UK & Ireland and recruitment consultancy Penna, which counts blue chip companies and government agencies as clients.

Appreciating the difficulties that care leavers face obtaining photo ID, Metro Bank is making a unique offering to care experienced young people. With care leavers often frequently moving accommodation, they face practical issues which impact upon their ability to open bank accounts, such as misplacing photo ID and/or the necessary documents to obtain it, the cost of getting photo ID and the absence of a long-term permanent address history.

In the run up to National Care Leavers’ Week, Metro Bank has been working with the Covenant to provide a new, care leaver friendly account opening process which uniquely does not require them to produce photo ID.

Instead, Metro Bank will accept letters from their local authorities confirming their care experienced status, making a special exemption for care leavers. In addition, the bank is committing to work with care leavers before, during and beyond the account opening process to ensure they have a smooth experience, and to develop and further enhance the experience for future care leaver customers.

Kat Robinson, Customer Experience Director of Metro Bank, said:

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Care Leaver Covenant. Historically, many people leaving care have struggled to open bank accounts, automatically putting them on the back foot when it comes to their future prospects. Metro Bank is proud to deliver a much friendlier bank account opening process, helping to empower care leavers as they grow into adult life.”

Care leavers also face barriers to employment and job opportunities due to loss of documentation and instability; areas which Compass Group UK & Ireland and Penna are both aiming to address.

During National Care Leavers’ Week Compass Group UK & Ireland is launching an online training programme specially designed for care leavers and other under-represented young people in the current COVID-19 landscape. Living in areas across the UK including Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Sheffield and Stoke, the young people are participating in the three-week training programme which focuses on hospitality employability with an interview at the end of the programme.

Participants will gain pandemic specific training including COVID customer service and personal safety; hospitality focused tuition including food safety and coffee training modules; plus developing soft skills like confidence and timekeeping. All are e-learning certificated modules which blend one-to-one mentoring and support with group training via webinars and features guest speakers.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships & Early Careers, Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: “Our programme for care leavers, delivered by Springboard specialist trainers as part of our established partnership, is specifically designed to support with employability and personal development skills whilst giving an insight into the hospitality industry. We’re a people focussed business and we’re passionate about providing learning opportunities.”

Penna recruitment consultancy will also be helping care leavers gain employment, this week announcing the launch of a specialised network of internal recruiters who will offer tailored support to care experienced job seekers. They will give them practical advice including guidance on CV writing and application forms, as well as delivering mock interviews.

Julie Towers, Managing Director of Penna, said: “We’re proud to be signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant. We’re providing a national and unlimited offer to care leavers of job seeking workshops. This will include CV development, preparing candidates for job-hunting, interview processes and the modern workplace.

“Through the provision of career advice, job seeking support and interview and application preparation, we will provide a platform for young people to flourish and gain fair access into the workplace.”

Thursday 29 October will see the Covenant’s own contribution towards National Care Leavers’ Week, The Empathy Summit, sponsored by purpose-driven business, Covenant Coffee Company.

Hosted by TV personality Sue Perkins, the Summit will challenge business leaders to open employment opportunities for care experienced young people, as well as improving the services available to them and, where necessary, making exemptions and allowances.

Speakers include  Sir Peter Bazalgette, Non-Exec Chairman of ITV, and Lemn Sissay MBE, poet and Chancellor of the University of Manchester, who is care experienced. Taking place online due to current COVID restrictions, those attending will hear how the government is looking to shape policy to increase support for young people leaving the care system. Innovative diversity and inclusion initiatives currently being provided for care leavers by leading employers will also be discussed.

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, delivery partner of the Care Leaver Covenant, said:

“This is a week dedicated to recognising and challenging the inequalities and injustices care leavers face, and we are specifically asking business and education leaders to consider how these barriers can place care experienced young people at a disadvantage.

“Things usually taken for granted, such as a long-term permanent address or financial and emotional support from parents, are missing for these young people through no fault of their own and their absence can massively impact personal and professional development.

“We are asking all organisations to recognise that they can play a role in improving prospects for care leavers by introducing packages of support which level the playing field for them and ensure they have the same opportunities as all young people so that they can lead healthy, happy and successful lives.”

Care leaver facts and stats

  • There are around 70,000 young people in care in the UK. Roughly ¾ predominantly in foster care and ¼ in Local Authority residential care.
  • Around 10,000 leave care each year, becoming care leavers.
  • Around 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are NEET.
  • Only about 7% of care leavers begin university degrees.
  • Roughly 25% of the male and female prison population are care experienced.
  • Roughly 25% of the homeless population are care experienced.

The Care Leaver Covenant in action:

  • More than 200 organisations signed up to the Covenant, including Trowers & Hamlins, Barclays, Reed, Superdry, Amazon, ENGIE, PGL and Compass Group.
  • 1,000 plus opportunities created for care leavers.
  • 152 councils with Children Services departments to support the Covenant.


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