Businesses support leading Covenant to show care leavers more empathy

Young care leavers face a multitude of hurdles when starting their adult life, but businesses have come together to make that journey easier

A high street bank, the UK’s marketing leading foodservice business and a national recruitment firm responded to a call made by the Care Leaver Covenant to show care leavers more empathy during National Care Leaver’s Week, at the end of last month.

Metro Bank, Compass Group and Penna, shared their aim to correct some of the inequalities care leavers face during The Empathy Summit hosted by the Care Leaver Covenant – designed to challenge business leaders to open employment opportunities for care experienced young people. Businesses were also tasked with improving the services available to care leavers and, where necessary, making exemptions and allowances.

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

Throughout National Care Leavers’ Week, the Covenant encouraged business leaders to adjust their practices to cater for young people who have left care, while highlighting the work of its partner organisations who already do.

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, and 25% of the prison population is care experienced.

The hurdles

Care leavers often have to move accommodation which can lead to them misplacing photo ID and the necessary documents to obtain it. This loss, the cost of replacement documents and the absence of a long-term permanent address history impacts a care leaver’s ability to open a bank account.

Appreciating the difficulties care leavers face, Metro Bank worked 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 is making a special exemption for care leavers by accepting letters from their local authorities confirming their care experienced status.

Metro Bank will also work with care leavers before, during and beyond the account opening process to ensure the process is smooth, and to 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 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 programme

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 launched an online training programme specially designed for care leavers and other under-represented young people during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The three-week training programme focuses on hospitality employability with an interview at the end of the programme.

Participants will gain pandemic specific training, including customer service and personal safety, food safety and coffee training modules, while also 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 is specifically designed to support with employability and personal development skills while giving an insight into the hospitality industry. We’re a people focussed business, and we’re passionate about providing learning opportunities.”

Penna will also be helping care leavers gain employment, having announced the launch of a specialised network of internal recruiters who will offer tailored support to care experienced job seekers. Penna will give care leavers 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.”

The Empathy Summit

The Covenant held The Empathy Summit – sponsored by purpose-driven business, Covenant Coffee Company – on 29 October, during  National Care Leavers’ Week.

Hosted by TV personality Sue Perkins, the Summit challenged 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 included Sir Peter Bazalgette, Non-Exec Chairman of ITV, and Lemn Sissay MBE, poet and Chancellor of the University of Manchester, who is care experienced.

Attendees heard 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 were also discussed.

Care leaver inequalities

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, a delivery partner of the Care Leaver Covenant, said: “National Care Leavers’ Week is a week dedicated to recognising and challenging the inequalities care leavers face, and we specifically asked 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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