News and Views
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the world-famous London Marathon and for the first time in Drive Forward’s history there will be a participant bearing our logo!
Andy Hearne, who works with our partners at The Crown Estate, has taken up the challenge of running the 26.219 miles around the River Thames on 3 October this year. Wanting to find out more about Andy’s motivations, his training, and why he believes that supporting care-experienced young people into fulfilling careers, we’ve asked him some questions.
Half of the children detained in Youth Offending Institutes are, or have been, in the care system. That’s despite the fact that children in care make up less than one percent of the child population. Research conducted by the Howard League for Penal Reform has found that unnecessary police call-outs and mental health difficulties are two of the main factors behind this statistic.
Prevention is better than the cure, and our Policy Forum’s criminalisation subgroup has mainly focused on how we can avoid children in care coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place. The group has worked extensively with the Metropolitan Police and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime on ways to achieve this. Forcing carers, social workers and other agents to ask themselves the question ‘Would this be good enough for my child’, our young people helped to write a protocol, released in March this year, aimed at keeping police call-outs as a last resort.
Introduced in 2015, our mentoring scheme has since developed into a comprehensive programme encompassing bespoke training for professional mentors, continuous support for both mentors and mentees, and additional professional development opportunities for care-experienced young people. What began as a small pilot with only a handful of participants, is now an integral part of the Drive Forward approach to enable care-experienced youth in London to achieve their full potential through sustainable and fulfilling employment.
We asked one of our very first participants, Sally, about the benefits that she has experienced from building and maintaining a trusted and consistent mentoring relationship.
Parenting is probably the most demanding and critical job in the world. Taking responsibility for a child, for children; caring for them, nurturing them, looking after their every need over years and years, takes patience, love, and courage. The Global Day of Parents emphasises this pivotal role families play in the protection and development of children all around the world. It celebrates their selfless commitment and efforts, and highlights the great value they bring to society every single day.
In January 2020, Superdrug became an official partner of Drive Forward, and provided placement opportunities in key roles across head office and pharmacy.
2019 saw the start of this rewarding partnership. We kicked off by attending a couple of ‘Interview Prep & Pizza’ events with members of Superdrug’s Access All Areas social mobility network, which was a fantastic introduction to the initiative.
Thinking back to your early 20s, did you know what you wanted to do with your life? For young people coming out of care, the years between their 18th and 25th birthday are pivotal. Before their local authority closes their case forever, these young people have to make sure that they are financially, emotionally, and practically stable. That means having a secure place to live, sufficient income, and a support network. However, actually making those decisions that will impact one’s life in the long-term is not an easy task.
“Young people who are in or about to leave local authority care are often vulnerable, isolated, more likely to suffer with mental health issues, and face bigger barriers when trying to find work. Helping a supporting a young man like Darnell who has had so many obstacles, and challenges in life and not always made the best decision for himself but is so positive, and determined to overcome them you just can’t help but admire and want help, and it has been a real privilege and pleasure. Young men like him are great examples to others, he has a great attitude and I hope the small opportunity we have given him will help him to go on a achieve his goals” Matthew Weatherby, Social Value Manger at Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd
You undergo many changes when transitioning from foster child to care leaver when you turn 18. Social workers turn into PAs (Personal Advisors). You are expected to rely on the welfare state if not in employment or student loans and grants if you are at university. You also grow up extremely quickly. By the age of 19, I had my own flat and was living alone.
It was shortly after moving in that I had my first mental health breakdown. Due to moving ‘out of borough’, the therapies that I had waited a year to access were stopped at my most vulnerable point. Since I was a new patient in that area, it meant that I had to join the back of the queue for help all over again
Deafness is something that is not talked about a lot, especially not in the context of the care system; the support available in residential homes or foster families. To learn more about the issue and how it impacts on care-experienced young people’s lives, we took the opportunity to speak to Linn, a care-experienced young person from London.
Linn and I have been working together on Drive Forward Foundation’s Breakthrough Programme, an initiative aimed at young people in care with the aim of enabling them to progress personally and professionally as they prepare for adulthood.
I am number 4 of 5 children my mother had with my father. My father had 13 children in total of which I was number 9. My mother made the decision for me to come and live with family friends in England as a bid to give me a ‘better life’ based on my family circumstances at the time. I came to England in 2002 and I lived in South London with this family for almost 8 years. The first 4 years of living with them, I was not allowed out of the house and was not allowed traditional education but was merely acting as the family’s live-in au-pair. I endured countless amounts of physical, emotional and mental abuse whilst living with the family.
I had no friends and no family to confide in. As I got older, I could not take it anymore which led to me running away and reporting my situation to the police. The police introduced me to Merton social services who supported me for most of my early adult years from 2010 until I finished university in 2019.
Working alongside the Director of Fundraising & Communications, you will play a pivotal role in bringing our charity’s communications up to the next level!
In your role, you’ll be collaborating with the whole of our team, creating interesting and engaging content to help raise awareness, find new partners, and enable more care-experienced young people to achieve their full potential.
This a very varied role in which you’ll have the opportunity to learn and improve your skills across content production (blogging, social media, videos, podcast) as well as managing multiple social media channels, and occasional press work.
When children or young people (under the age of 18) come to the UK on their own, with no family to look after them in this country, then the state becomes responsible for them; they go into care. Their immigration background, however, often leaves them facing continuous difficulties in accessing state benefits, education and employment, even after they leave care. This issue is particularity pressing for those whose status is uncertain or temporary.
On 22 April 1993, the country was shocked by the murder of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence in an unprovoked, racist attack. The subsequent investigation, and public enquiry highlighted the structural and systemic racism across the country.
Here at Drive Forward we would like to honour this year’s Stephen Lawrence Day by highlighting how having a supportive network, opportunity to grow and develop can provide lifelong, blended learning and development opportunities for care experienced young professionals.
We interviewed Drive Forward young person Bebert Longi about how he overcomes challenges and what he would like to ask Stephen Lawrence if he had the chance to speak with him.
Care-experienced young people from the EU who have not had applications made on their behalf to remain in the UK after Brexit are at risk of becoming “undocumented” adults. After 30th June 2021, these people will find themselves living in the UK unlawfully, without the right to work, claim benefits, rent a home, hold a bank account, access further education, and could face deportation.
Our childhood memories shape who we are, how we see ourselves and the way that we relate to those around us. These memories are intricately shaped by our family. Parents reminisce with their children several times a day – reliving holidays, occasions, funny moments or behaviours. Consider your own memories – are they related to stories you have heard your mum tell countless times at family occasions? Do you have clear images from a moment in your childhood that is connected to the photographs you have up in your house? In research into how we form childhood memories, researchers themselves recount that they have misremembered events that happened to their sibling as their own because of the strong emotional connection.
Many women exiting the care system, despite the barriers they face, receive exemplary grades and obtain employment in highly competitive fields such as business, law, social care, politics and finance. However, statistically this isn’t as common as it should be. Statistically, the barriers facing these young women can have serious impacts on their lives, with the complexities of being a woman intersecting with the experience of leaving care. Emotional barriers such as building confidence in order to navigate male-dominated workforces and the pressures of conforming to gender roles which don’t necessarily reflect their identity often tend to go unspoken, underexplored and unsupported by governmental and other relevant authorities.
This short article is an attempt to shed some light on the history of institutional care in Britain. I will draw attention to some of the most important Legal Acts and Figures and provide a rough timeline from the first traces of out-of-home care in 1552 (De Wilde, 2018) to the beginning of our present care system in the 20th century. This article is by no means exhaustive, and only scratches the surface of historical developments that lead us to where we are today. Hence I will signpost a few books and articles that go into more depth about the history of care.
Following the national recognition for our Policy Forum’s work on ending the unnecessary criminalisation of children and young people in care by the Howard League for Penal Reform last year, the London protocol on reducing criminalisation has finally been published in March 2021. We’re also delighted to find that the Policy Forum’s suggestion of a bespoke summary document aimed are young people has been realised as well.
There is a common misconception of the terms “happiness” and “positivity” that I, as a practitioner of positive psychology often encounter. People tend to think of happiness as this desirable state in which everything is good, pleasant and peaceful. Most people think of it as a permanent state of being that we hope to achieve one day in future. We long for it and we work hard towards it, but we never seem to be able to really grasp it. In my experience, this longing for happiness has two major downsides.
Fighting against social and systemic injustice underlines our mission at Drive Forward of enabling care-experienced young people to fulfill their full potential in sustainable and fulfilling employment. When we started our work 10 years ago, it has been clear early on that ‘care experience’ is a broad and dynamic field of multiple barriers, challenges, disadvantage, an array of emotions, different pathways, but also opportunities, achievements, and resilience. Care experience is just one part of an Indvidual’s identity; it’s an intersectional experience that spans across race, religion, gender, class, and sexuality. Care-experienced LGBTQ+ young people are particularly prone to facing stigma from family, friends and professionals, making it even harder to ‘come out’ in care.
Apprenticeships can be a fantastic alternative to university for young people who have left care; offering the chance to enter work and gain qualifications at the same time. Apprenticeships are also a great fit for those who are practically minded and learn best on the job!
That year has been anything but comfortable and nice. The range of emotions experienced has been scarily eye opening. Getting through everything without knowing what is to come next has definitely been a character building, perspective breaking and dream shaking experience.
As I sit at home and look at my laptop at a time, I was supposed to be hosting a big in-person event with lots of hugs, good food and drink, dedicated to our partners, I’m greeted with 40 different smiling faces that represents the work we have done over the past 3 years. It represents the support provided and the dedication to the remarkable partners we work with. This year has been tough, but together we all got through it and I feel so proud to work with everyone.
This week’s article will solely focus on the feeling of envy and how we perceive, absorb and manage it. Whether you’re on the receiving end or you happen to be the one that’s dishing it out, I have chosen to address this as a topic because I feel like I’ve seen a lot of this emotion in the past year.
Children come into care for a variety of reasons, at the start of 2020, there were 78,150 children in care in England alone. Many, if not the majority, have all suffered some form of neglect or traumatic experiences pre-care. In many situations, parents not getting the support they needed was a significant factor in this but this, in many examples, is not recognised by the child. It becomes easy to personalise their experiences and conclude that they were not worthy of love, broken or were unwanted. It is no wonder that with such generalisations made at such an early age, any other adults who ‘intervene’ may be pushed away, untrusted or seen as a threat. After all, in some instances, in the child’s mind, the only adults who should have unconditionally loved them, didn’t want them. Understanding attachment theory is of paramount importance when working with these children during their education.
Being in lockdown for a while, the way we interact with the world has changed for a lot of us but nonetheless is still a vital part of our functioning, whether we dread or enjoy it. Some days we may feel different when it comes to responding to WhatsApp’s and other days, we may feel like completely switching everything off and grounding ourselves or even not engaging in any activity at all. Mentally and/or physically.
No matter whether you work for the private, the public, or the third sector, the pandemic has forced all of us to get creative in order to achieve our goals, and for some of us, to simply survive. For Drive Forward it meant finding realistic, affordable, and effective ways to keep the young people we support as well our corporate partners engaged. Lucky for us, our partners have been at the forefront of showing passion and commitment, and driving innovation.
In 2019 Drive Forward forged a partnership with Distilled. Having recently merged with Brainlabs, their recruitment team decided to start over and do things differently.
Politics, pandemics, protests. 2020 has been an eventful year. As the world came to terms with new threats and challenges posed by an infectious disease placing the livelihoods of many on standby and resulting in the tragic loss of life, we soon learned about the spread of another pre-existing societal disease that has had a somewhat similar effect.
For us at Drive Forward, Black History Month 2020 is a chance to remember, to discover, and to learn. Our team has compiled a collection of biographic one-pagers, each representing parts of black history written across our capital and beyond. Some of the people we write about will be familiar to you and some might not, but all of them have a connection to one or more places in Britain.
Our aim is to unearth a lost, forgotten or hidden history about some of the black people who shaped this country and its people. Of course, one page won’t do anybody’s life justice. Thus, it’s up to you to take in the information and do your own digging into the many stimulating stories we’ve collected.
Let yourself be inspired by their achievements; be curious about their journeys; and be motivated to explore both historical and contemporary stories!
In the future, 2020 will not only be the year a global pandemic hit our planet, but it will also be known as the ‘year of cancellations’. Causing much disappointment in each Londoner, the Notting Hill Carnival was no exception.
So, in order to not miss out on the colourful celebrations of Art, Cuisine, Fashion and Music, we decided to run our own Covid-responsible Carnival at Drive Forward. The underlying idea was to highlight each of these four aspects of culture for the young people and staff to learn about and enjoy together.
The last few months have been an interesting time for us all. We have all had to deal with change in some shape or form. For the young people on the Breakthrough programme, this has also been their experience but amplified due to their circumstances.
As we reflect on the uncertainties we have faced as adults during the coronavirus hysteria of 2020, we can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for a child of the state to grow up during this historical time.
In a previous blog we’ve talked about how our corporate partners are driving innovation during the pandemic. Since law firm Squire Patton Boggs pioneered taking the traditional work placement into the digital realm, another handful of our partners have followed suite.
Today, we’re talking to Caroline Theodore, Manager at Baringa Partners, a business and technology constancy.
Unfortunately, poor mental health is very common among the care-experienced population and can make life even more difficult for them. Things such as employment, personal care and wellbeing, or independent living are much harder to maintain when struggling with one’s mental health. There are already specialised services for care leavers such as housing officers and personal advisers, and it’s time we matched this provision with specialised mental health services too.
Currently, we are focusing on gaining more insight into the different experiences of care leavers and collecting their suggestions, ideas, and innovations to create a more comprehensive picture of what a well-functioning mental health service provision for care-experienced people would look like.
Partnerships with employers have always been a core part of the Drive Forward model, enabling us to provide opportunities to young adults leaving the care system which, without the usual support networks, they would otherwise not have access to. At the beginning of lockdown, as our partners postponed work placements, business prospects retreated and we heard countless reports of the impact on youth unemployment, we worried about what the future of these partnerships might hold.
I come from humble beginnings; being raised in Queens Crescent was an experience which has led me to become the man I am today. Where I grew up, a lot of crime and anti-social behaviour was the norm and I knew at heart I could be someone who doesn’t fit into the typical narrative of a young black Congolese male from Camden. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I experienced the harassment from police in the area; having to stay home after school as 200 police were raiding my neighbourhood; consistently being stopped and searched throughout my secondary school years (even being stopped and search on my 15th birthday!).
Some stories of young people working with us read like a list of high level goals, giving you the satisfying, warm and tingling feeling of checking off the boxes as you go along. Walid’s is such a story, taking you on a journey from seemingly unsurmountable challenges to eventual success.
We all have different ways in which we approach and cope with things. We also have different ways in which we take care of ourselves. We have different ways in which we treat the people around us as well. My ways may not suit you and your ways may not suit me. But what we both have in common, is the need to look after ourselves. It’s an essential part of our functioning as human beings even though we sometimes require a reminder from time to time. In this article I’ll cover a few areas I’ve managed to improve in and will share a few tips that work for me.
The pandemic has hit the young people we’re working with extremely hard. Many of them have lost their jobs right at the beginning of the crisis in February-March, especially the younger ones 19, 20 years old. A lot of our young people are given a council flat or studio at a young age, which means that they’ve a lot of financial responsibilities. Several of them have additional caring duties looking after young children, siblings or sick family members.
There’s no amount of words that can encapsulate how horrible the current world state is that we’re in. I’m not talking coronavirus and stress, I’m talking the suffering of millions, a whole lot of racism and a whole lot of injustice. Being a young person that’s grown up in London I’ve seen my closest friends experience things I’ll never even come close to comprehending let alone knowing what it feels like to go through such pain. This week, I want to highlight the seriousness of what’s going on around us and share whatever awareness I hold on the situation as I think having a voice across platforms should be utilised to its full potential right now.
Have you ever wondered if it was possible to control your dreams? Ever woken up once and thought to yourself “whoa that was a good dream?” wishing to go back and continue it?
Well, what if I told you there was a way for you to dream about whatever you wanted, you’ll be in full control with your imagination being the limit!
As an organisation whose foundations lie in addressing social injustice, challenging issues of race and racial inequalities as well as fighting racism is central to Drive Forward’s vision of a society where all care-experienced people enjoy opportunity, empathy and respect.
We realise, however, that in order to do this we need to look within ourselves and continuously scrutinize our own practice, norms and behaviours. Only by being consistent with our own self-improvement and projecting that image to the outside, can we continue to be an effective driver for positive change within our immediate environment and beyond.
Procrastination, a topic I haven’t written on yet but sure have thought a lot about. I find myself feeling lazy from time to time, some days avoiding everything and everyone but other days not so much. I find that it comes in micro doses and when it arrives it tends to get very comfortable, almost snug in its seat.
Although I am aware that it would be much better to be together in a physical environment as the human touch is important, what I am also experiencing is that showing presence and attention as a mentor is the fundamental thing, regardless of the way we use to communicate. I consider the technological tools we have as a blessing in this situation, in particular for mentors like me who have the precious chance to support young people in this delicate transition phase.
Farhia always wanted to go to university. She remembers people telling her as a child, that a solid university education is the best way to a good career. The outlook of stability, a regular income, not having to worry about how to get by all seemed like good reasons for Farhia to work hard and earn her place at university.
Two years down the line, I have LOVED every minute. My Mentee is a remarkable individual and hugely talented; in the time we’ve been paired together he’s attended interviews, secured a permanent role, and delivered a number of successful projects. We have very similar interests and, when we haven’t needed to look at CVs or to practise interview techniques, we have widely varied what we do together.
A year ago, I could not have imagined I’d be in a well-paid full-time job that I really enjoy. Back then it felt like I had no control over my life because I missed out on my education. I’m a Londoner, but for two years I ended up as a total stranger in Manchester at a school for people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. The teachers thought I should be doing GCSEs but the school didn’t have anything on offer.
Have you been finding yourself pondering people from the past or replaying long lost scenarios in your head lately? Welcome to the club! As we’re sat indoors either keeping busy or lounging around, this gives us way too much time to fall back into old thought patterns and shady places. We find ourselves hoping that those who’ve done us wrong in the past are OK, even those who took us to some of the darkest places we’ve ever been to. There’s nothing wrong with genuinely hoping the best for others, even those who hurt us, but there’s a big difference in hoping so and actively expressing it. As much as you might miss a specific person, especially during the pandemic it’s highly important you don’t take yourself to the same place where you felt pain. I strongly believe that nobody can heal whilst being in the same place where their hurt was caused. This includes half-hearted friendships, failed talking stages and toxic ex’s, the entire lot!
You find yourself swamped with deadlines despite being at home. You find yourself exhausted regardless of how much you’ve slept. There are dishes to do and you need to wash your hair. Return that call. Check emails again. Attend a lengthy lecture on Microsoft Teams and don’t forget all the backed-up FaceTime calls in your schedule.
Before I went into care, I constantly had arguments with my parents; to the point that I became homeless for nine months. A lot has happened after that, but eventually I was really lucky to find myself living with a loving foster family who have taken on the roles of a great parent for me.
I don’t know about you but I know I’ve been dealt my fair share of anxiety and panic attacks in the last few weeks. I think this is a topic that isn’t thought about enough amidst all the other shocking scary stuff going on. So, here I am shedding light on just that. You don’t have to particularly belong to the group of OCD sufferers to feel corona’s noose tightening around your neck. Existing during this period is enough.
According to a recent report conducted by Coram Voice on challenging stigma in the care system, 1 in 10 care leavers felt that, as a care leaver, they have been treated worse than their contemporaries. This has been reflected in conversations with individuals we work with at Drive Forward, many of whom are frustrated by hearing the same negative statistics and stories in the media and by professionals working in the care system. This can have an impact on how individuals see themselves as well as how they are treated in the workplace. The most common reason that individuals who we work with leave their jobs is that they feel isolated from their colleagues, different and undervalued.
Transition and change are inevitable. Omnipresent, ongoing, even if we do not always notice. These days, transition and change turn into our daily companion. They can carry uncertainty and fear, and often it is difficult to understand them as a friend rather than an enemy.
From zoom calls to virtual health support, what is it that young people need and want amid the COVID-crisis?
What effect does looking into people’s living space via a video call have on us and, more importantly, on them? We are barraged with views of luxurious looking homes and backgrounds on television; the theme seems to be vast bookshelves, awards and pictures, high ceilings and (for want of a better phrase) “middle-class” homes.
I’m going to start by being super blunt. I am mentally drained, physically exhausted and quite frankly tired of the cycle we all seem to be unintentionally engaged in. We are programmed to switch on the news and get up to date with that’s going on around us. We are scheduled to wake up and check our phones in the morning. All of this, yet we never programme ourselves for time out or a minute away from the madness.
Since the lockdown, my role seems to have taken a new shape. The decrease in available employment opportunities and the increase in basic needs such as food, shelter, company and positivism have caused me as an Employment Consultant to adapt to the needs of our young people.
How do you get started without falling into the age old trap of no writing portfolio to show anyone in order to get a foot in the door? Here are some tips which I have myself over the years.
For years, I’ve been entertaining the toxic habit of skipping breakfast after barely getting enough sleep only to then wonder why I’d find myself drifting to sleep in lessons or why I was so low in mood. Well, the answer to that is energy. Energy is essential to function. We gain energy through eating, sleeping, or exercise. Like a well-kept machine, we too have to recharge our batteries from time to time.
I’ve only recently started volunteering with DFF and I’m currently in my first mentoring relationship. So far, I’ve found it challenging – but in a good way. It’s already helped me to really think about how well I listen and how I can best support the person I’m working with to identify and work towards their own goals.
Lockdown is in full swing and I must say it’s causing a variety of feelings in me and around me. From feeling trapped, anxious and scared to feeling particularly creative, reflective and humbled by the global chaos.
Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes, whether its eating what you love, face timing a friend, banging on a face mask listening to your favourite record, going through your skincare routine or lounging in bed til 12 in the afternoon just do it and do NOT feel guilty about it.
In these challenging times it is more important than ever to stick together and create positive change. So, here are some suggestions on how you can have a real impact, from the comfort of your home.
On 26th March, we wrote to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson CBE MP, calling on the government to ensure that care leavers are properly supported throughout the coronavirus crisis.
For the thousands of people who live with an eating disorder – myself included – the pandemic is wreaking havoc with our lives and recoveries. Being unable to buy food is an absolute nightmare – ‘nourish to flourish’ is a lot harder when the only food in the shops seem to be soups and low-calorie items – living off which could lead to a rapid spiral.
The Drive Forward Policy Forum has been going for three years now and come from strength to strength. Personally, I am most excited for the expansion of our National Policy Forum. Though our London group of over 30 care leavers is well established, we set out in 2019 to expand to pastures new. Since then, we have connected with care-experienced young people right across the UK.
Five members of our Policy Forum, who are all students at different higher education institutions in Manchester, present their experience of what it is like to be a care leaver at university.
At Drive Forward, we see care-experienced people doing amazing things every day. We know that the stereotypes and statistics do not
reflect the real story. That’s why we celebrate Care Day – to take the time to appreciate all of the fantastic care-experienced people that we work with and everything they have achieved.
We are very happy and proud that 33 young people working with Drive Forward have been successful with their applications; that represents over 20% of all the openings available! Over the next couple of weeks, they will join different Departments ranging from the Department for Education to the foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Corporate partnerships are a central pillar of the Drive Forward approach to enabling care-experienced young people to successfully move from care into a career. Over the past decade, our partners have shown an outstanding level of dedication, creativity and commitment and our network has continued to grow in strength from year to year. We’re very proud to having created a community of businesses and individuals, who all share the belief that sustainable employment, supportive working environments and a career of their own choice offer young people from care an opportunity to live up to their potential and create a fulfilled life for themselves.
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