In 2017 there were 72,670 looked after children in the UK, a number that has been steadily increasing. Unfortunately, the outcomes for far too many of these young people are not positive. In 2017-2018, 39% of care leavers between the ages of 19 and 21 were identified as not in education, employment or training, known in the education space as NEET. This is exceptionally high compared to approx. 12% of all young people in the same age range. This has nothing to do with the potential and talent of care leavers but everything to do with the hand they’ve been dealt.

Many people in the UK will have no knowledge of the care system and what it means to be a young person in it. Whilst no two young people’s experiences are the same, for many young people leaving care, their early years have been characterised by trauma and change. This might be the trauma surrounding why they entered the care system; in 2017 approximately 61% of looked after young people had experienced abuse or neglect. However, this is often followed by moving home, schools, losing connections with friends and family, and for some, moving around various foster or residential home placements too. Again in 2017, 32% of looked after children had two or more placements within a period of just one year. This is an incredible amount of upheaval, and unsurprisingly affects attendance and attainment at school in addition to emotional health. The charity Centrepoint found that about 40% of care leavers have either slept rough or sofa surfed after leaving care.

This week I was delighted to attend Drive Forward’s eye-opening Partnership Breakfast. Three articulate, bright and confident young people who had been supported by the charity shared their experiences. Despite the daily struggles these young people go through, battling with more than a lifetime’s worth of trauma packed into only 20something years, it was clear to all the energy, emotional intelligence and value they bring to their organisations. This is why WhiteHat are so excited to be partnering with Drive Forward to support more of their candidates to progress onto high quality apprenticeships.

Last week's Drive Forward breakfast (image copyright Drive Forward)

Underpinned by an understanding of the impact of childhood trauma on adolescent development, Drive Forward have developed a bespoke support package aimed at enabling care-experienced young people to achieve their full potential. At the centre of their approach is quality 1-2-1 support adapted to individuals’ specific needs, aspirations and career goals. Young people can then access a mix of employability skills and personal development sessions, from yoga and participatory theatre, to interview preparation and workplace visits. Their network of committed business partners across the city offer exclusive work placement and employment opportunities for the young people to kickstart their careers. Importantly, this is followed up by an in-work mentoring scheme to support young people to effectively sustain employment and progress in their chosen career path.

Drive Forward say, “Our partnership with WhiteHat will help care-experienced young people to level the playing field and get a true shot at successfully achieving their career goals. Both our organisations believe in young people and their potential to not only succeed in their lives, but also to go on making a positive and lasting contribution to society. Together we’re empowering young people with a background in care to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential.”

It is WhiteHat’s mission to develop a diverse group of future leaders. Our apprenticeships are competitive, aspirational and challenging, specialising in Tech, Finance and Business at some of the UK’s most exciting companies. Some of Drive Forward’s young people are ready for that challenge now, but for others it’s a longer-term goal. Whatever stage they are at with their own development, WhiteHat are thrilled to be working closely with the staff at Drive Forward to offer them support along the way.