Don’t take a chance on me

We are constantly reminded of the difficulties young people face getting in to work. Currently, there are an estimated 958, 000 unemployed 16-24 year olds in the UK.

Ready for work but who will give us a chance?

The ONS provide us with these latest sad stats regarding young people in the labour market for June to August 2013, seasonally adjusted. How many of these are care leavers? (The new name for young people that have been in foster care and now are not)

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The Who Cares Trust  (@whocarestrust) say it’s by no means a given, but children who spend time in the care system are less likely than other children to achieve academic success. This could result in a lack of long term success in the workplace.

They are more likely to have problems with crime, drugs and mental health than their peers.  I bet that’s reassuring if you’re in care right now.

The rules for teenagers leaving care and becoming responsible adults are themselves in transition. As social worker Teresa McAlorum says ‘a few years ago, it was “you’re sixteen – goodbye”’. This is still the case for some. 27% of 16 year olds are given council accommodation, benefits and are left to get on with it.

I have a more positive outlook on my part in a rubbish statistic. I have had a very fulfilling life to date and I wouldn’t change a single second of it.

Every day, this is how I feel. Like Christmas!
Every day, this is how I feel. Like Christmas!

Yes, it was hard at times, but who’s life isn’t? I was one of those kids who went into foster care and, just before my 16th birthday, I was classed as “independent”. I was moved from a very stable foster home to a grim bedsit.  No longer care of the state, no longer their problem. My very first blog kind of summarises what happened next.  I’m extremely proud of this.

From today, young people leaving care will be able to see exactly what support is available to them as they take the first steps into adult life with the new care leaver strategy.

The strategy sets out in one place the steps the government is taking – from housing to health services, from the justice system to educational institutions – to support care leavers to live independently once they have left their placement. I’m not holding my breath but I have hope.

Whether care leavers have gone on to higher education and gained a degree, left school with A Levels or GCSE’s or, like me, abandoned the education ship and got a job, any job. What’s important is that they are prepared to work, have the right mindset and have the basic ability to perform the duties asked of them. The rest, can be trained.

There are as many organisations able and willing to help prepare care leavers for working life as there are employers prepared to offer care leavers a job. Hey, they will even offer a career path if that’s what you want. I say many employers and not all purely based on my own personal experience.

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I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m not ashamed to talk about it. Sadly, some employers clearly have a problem. Over the years, I’ve been in interviews and been asked how I’ve progressed and what drives me. I’m honest. Maybe that was wrong? Should I have fed the hiring manager the typical bullsh*t answer? To see their faces change when I mention, very briefly, that what drives me is to challenge the perception that being in foster care means that you will always be a “sh*t-kicker” and can never achieve a respected, senior position, I almost want to get up and walk out there and then. I might add that I don’t use the term “sh*t-kicker” in interviews. The one time I actually did, I got the best job in the world. Hmmm, there’s a lesson there.

I have never wanted pity or sympathy because I was in care. What I wanted, as do many other care leavers, is for employers to understand that we have had a different, sometimes difficult and maybe even horrific childhood experience. Don’t take a chance. Let us work for it. Earn it. Let us be proud. You will be rewarded in ways that ROI simply do not measure.

If I haven’t bored you to tears by this point and you’re still with me. THANK YOU!  I’m 34 now. 19 years since I left care.  A Full time (and pretty bloody good) HR bird in the world of Hospitality, an approved Foster Carer and I have the most amazing man by my side, constantly supporting everything I do. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I’m pretty darn pleased with how this has panned out.

For a more down with the kids viewpoint, this is Billie’s story (via Barnardos) Take a few minutes to check it out.

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Family, Cats, Food Nerd, Gin Queen, People. Not HR.

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