2019 has been a transformational year for our charity. We’ve gone from 12 members of staff to 18; introduced two Early Intervention Programmes; as well as a new Advocacy and Wellbeing service; all of which will see us work with up to 500 care-experienced young people this year.
To share our excitement, we invited referral partners, social workers, charity partners, colleagues, young programme participants and interested parties to an Open Evening Showcase event at The Lift in Angel.
We were very pleased to welcome so many old and new faces! All of whom were eager to learn more about the holistic service package Drive Forward has developed over the past 9 years, and how our team can effectively support care-experienced young people transition from care into a career.
In her welcoming statement our CEO and Founder, Martha Wansbrough, highlighted the fact that everything Drive Forward does is directly aimed at providing the best possible support for the children and young people working with us. This means, equipping them with the skills, tools and mind-sets they need to achieve their full potential and realise their ambitions. In order to do so, we rely on the long-term commitment not only of our dedicated staff, but also of our Ambassadors, who regularly review and inform our work, as well as our partners in the corporate and public sectors.
This was echoed by our Head of Corporat Engagement, Lucy Elamad, who spoke passionately about the mutual benefits of robust charity-business partnerships. Drive Forward’s network of 20+ partners not only support our work via skilled volunteering, but also offer bespoke work placements as well as employment opportunities to the young people working with us.
“Doing an internship at Hill + Knowlton was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had the opportunity to build transferable skills such as working to meet deadlines, working in teams and being able to manage workloads, all of these skills will definitely benefit me in my studies.” – Morrilyn, 22
The core of our work is the quality 1-2-1 support delivered by our team of 5 Employment Consultants. Rachel Neuer has been with Drive Forward for almost four years;
“The wonderful thing about Drive Forward is the dynamic of our team. Martha and Anton have done a great job at putting the right people together; qualified, passionate and dedicated to the cause. We always drive each other further.”
And with these kind words she introduced our newest member of staff, Justin Sesay, who has gone from football, to knife-crime prevention, to mediating between rival gangs and now supporting young people in Lambeth into a career of their own choice.
Nobody can speak better about what we do than the young people who experience our work directly. We were honoured to hear from Shimron Walters, now an Ambassador for our charity. His journey from being a part-time retail service assistant to now being an Executive Officer in the Civil Service in less than a year, showcases how effective the combination of quality 1-2-1 support, work experience and corporate networks, and individual motivation is.
Shimron’s words resonated with the whole audience and hopefully encouraged other young people to aim higher and make use of all the support networks around them.
Whilst Drive Forward’s mission is to enable care-experienced individuals to access sustainable employment, our work is so much more than that. Putting the individual young person at the very centre of our approach, we are eager to broaden their horizons on different levels. Nicholl Hardwick, who is also Shimron’s Employment Consultant, presented some of the other elements of our work targeted at exposing individuals to new and exciting experiences. From taking young people to one of the many landmark museums; to seeing politically provoking exhibitions; to weekly yoga sessions; and monthly film clubs.
Social activities like these not only provide young individuals with the opportunity to get out of their day-to-day lives and make new experiences, but also encourage them to interact with their peers, gain mutual support and foster their social and communication skills.
The importance of having a strong peer support network was then reiterated by Rory Morgan, Head of Political Engagement. He facilitates the Drive Forward Policy Forum, a group of passionate care-experienced people whose mission is to challenge current procedures in the care system and passionately advocate for effective policy change. Over the past year, they have fostered strong partnerships with other organisations across the country. Currently, they are working on ending the unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children (e.g. having the police called when a foster child breaks a mug in anger or comes home late); a subject which has come to some media attention this year.
The power of mentoring and its ability to help individuals drive forward in their careers was highlighted by our new Head of Mentoring, Tara Larkin,
“At Drive Forward we provide quality training to all our mentors before they enter a mentoring relationship with a young person. The training around the long-term impact of childhood trauma is delivered by an expert psychologist.”
Lulu Burrough from T. Rowe Price, who is currently mentoring a young person working for the civil service, then spoke about the benefits she’s gained from working with her mentee, and how it feels to have a positive impact on his future career development.
As mentioned above, Drive Forward recently introduced two band new programmes specifically developed for children and young people who are still in care. The projects are based on our experience as well as extensive research and in-depth consultations with young people, social workers and other professionals, and aim at preventing negative developments and experiences that occur in so many care-experienced young people’s lives.
Stacey Dolan, is managing a brand-new programme aimed at children in year 9. COMPASS – Navigating Your Own Way will:
- operate within half terms, so that it doesn’t interfere with children’s school schedule;
- keep them socially active while away from school, and gives them a sense of social responsibility within the local community by taking part in various community projects;
- give participants an accredited qualification e.g. food and hygiene, first aid, self-defence etc.;
- empower participants to actively choose which trips and activities they participate in and what extra-curricular activities will be developed over time.
The second programme, BREAKTHROUGH – Realise Your Full Potential, is a self-development programme aimed at young people in year 10 and 11. Francis Tayler, who designed the project spoke passionately about the importance of taking charge of one’s own life and introduced us to the various learning experiences participants can expect; from seeing what life in prison would be like, to spending a night on the streets of London. Together with Tom Zulu, Career Coach, Francis will be working with participants for a total of three years, during which they will have the opportunity to gain valuable skills and further their personal development.
For more information about our Early Intervention programmes please visit our website.
On top of these new ventures, we’ve now introduced a bespoke Advocacy & Wellbeing service for care-experienced young people aged 18 to 26. The service is led by Richard Bernardo, whose years of experience in social work as well as leading a Leaving Care Team in London, put him into an excellent position to deliver a reliable quality service.
After this marathon of showcasing Drive Forward’s holistic service offer, our guests had the opportunity to reflect and network over delicious canapés.
We are thrilled to announce that the success of the event and the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from attendees mean that we will make the Drive Forward Service Showcase an annual event! So, be the first to know about when and where the next event will take place by joining our mailing list above!