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if_jee-66_2180674Created with Sketch. Promise to Care Toolkit

Jobs change lives. How can we support more Care Experienced Young People into Employment?

I believe the onus is on businesses in partnership with support organisations to solve the problems and barriers that care experienced young people face in finding and staying in employment. The onus is not on the care leaver who has a great deal to understand and navigate already when applying for a new job. However, the care experienced young person must take responsibility for their integration into the world of work and be receptive to working with businesses in order to make the relationship work. This can be worked out through clear communication, understanding and training.

Emily Quinton, Manager European Events and Communications, Thermo Fisher Scientific

This toolkit for businesses, local authorities and support organisations gives an insight into the issues facing care experienced young people looking for work. It gives ideas on how to support them before and during the recruitment process, and when they are in employment.

This toolkit has been designed in collaboration with care experienced young people and the local business community.

Promise to Care

120 local businesses and organisations have supported our care experienced young people over the last three years through our Promise to Care. These businesses and organisations have provided the support and opportunities care experienced young people need to progress in education, employment and their wider lives.

Support has included work experience, work tours or volunteering opportunities, mentoring, providing discounts on their services, contributing or donating items to group sessions, or just offering to get to know a care experienced young person.

Why might care experienced young people need support to get into work?

Care experienced young people often do not have the social and family networks that can open doors to the workplace. In addition, while care leavers are entitled to statutory support up to the age of 25, their support workers have increasingly large workloads which requires them to triage their cases and focus on those most in need. Consequently, many care experienced young people feel that they are left to fend for themselves once they leave care at the age of 16, 17 or 18.

These young people are the children of the state, and as such there is an argument that everyone has a role to play in supporting these young people to succeed and achieve their potential. This includes local authorities, statutory services, schools and education providers, and local voluntary and community organisations. Businesses have a huge role to play in this; meaningful employment and a stable income can enable care experienced young people to overcome many of the other challenges they face in their wider lives.

Key Facts

According to latest stats from DfE, in 2020:

  • In England the number of looked after children is up by 2% from 2019 to 80,080
  • There were nearly 6,000 children being looked after in the East Midlands
  • Of these, 310 were unaccompanied asylum seeking children (5% or 1 in 20)
  • There are 585 looked after children (LAC) and 418 care leavers across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
  • 10% of care leavers aged 17-21 receive no support from their local authority, and this proportion likely increases as young people get older.
  • Around two-fifths (~40%) of care leavers in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are not in education, employment or training
  • Nationally, 40% of care leavers aged 19–21 are not in employment, education or training compared with 13% of all young people aged 19–21

What do businesses need to know?

Why should businesses support care experienced young people into employment?

Young creative workforce

Care experienced young people have energy, drive and a different outlook on things which can bring a fresh perspective and a different way of thinking to your business. Care experienced young people are eager to get on with their lives and have developed an inner determination to succeed as many do not have a safety-net of mum or dad to fall back on. The enthusiasm of youth is great for team building, productivity and workplace morale, and add the resilience that care experienced young people have developed through their lives and you have one powerful work colleague.

Jobs improve lives

Supporting a care experienced young person into employment can increase their independence, a sense of responsibility, money management and connection to society. It can boost their self-esteem and confidence and can turn their life around. Many care experienced young people will live in isolation and poverty which is a key indicator for being exposed to the criminal justice system, being a victim of crime, living a shorter life, or having life limiting chances compared to their peers. Giving a care experienced young person a job can improve their social and professional networks which in turn, can open doors to new opportunities that can enhance their lives and give back to society.

We want to provide care leavers with stability. This might be helping them with setting up bank accounts, as it can be hard if you have moved address a lot, or supporting them getting to work.

Alex Perkins, Workforce Engagement Program Officer, Amazon

Invest in their community

A wealth creation approach to community development moves beyond “income” as the sole measure of a “good life”. Income is important, but “crucially” for people living in a poor community, income can be “stop start” and leave them very vulnerable to economic downturns. A community that offers security, a sense of belonging, affordable housing, decent schools, health provision and infrastructure has a “communal wealth” that provides a solid foundation for the community to thrive and be resilient through the highs and lows of economic activity. Communities that provide these are more likely to thrive, attract new investment and produce educated people who want to succeed and remain within their communities. A wealth creation approach is a “win win” for community and business and one that must be developed and explored.

Read more about Wealth creation and community development

Sustainability is a current buzz word. In 2015 ,the UN set its sustainable development goals... some of those goals relate to employment, poverty and equality. By supporting the Promise to Care you are supporting those UN goals. As businesses, we are being challenged by our customers to be sustainable and they want proof and data. By supporting these young people you are doing that. Provide the right framework, and you can foster and develop care leavers to thrive.

Emily Quinton, Manager European Events and Communications, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Market Trends

Business and organisations are being challenged by their customers to look at their corporate sustainability and within the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which looks at poverty, inequality, peace and justice. Customers want to know what companies are doing about this, and now shop ethically and expect the businesses they interact with to be sustainable. Care experienced young people straddle all of these themes, so supporting a care experienced young person is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.

What could businesses do to support care leavers?

  • Offer work tours so care experienced young people can see what the world of work looks like.
  • Help reviewing a care experienced young person's CV.
  • Help a care experienced young person fill out a job application.
  • Create a volunteering opportunity at your work
  • Become a Mentor and guide a care experienced young person through the employment journey. Find out more about our Care Experienced Mentoring Programme.
  • Change your application process. Due to digital poverty, many care experienced young people do not have easy access to computers and laptops, resulting in applying for jobs using their mobile phones. Many applications are not mobile friendly, and filling out long answers using your phone can be difficult. Could this process be skipped? Could care experienced young people apply over a phone call, or use a cover letter and CV that they already have rather than starting a fresh every time?
  • Apprenticeships and training are quick and effective ways to support care experienced young people into employment.

Before I started on the care experienced mentoring programme I had very limited involvement with young people in the care system. It has been incredibly rewarding learning with, and from, someone with a different life story, knowledge and experience. It’s challenged me to adapt the communication and engagement skills I use in my work role, and in turn take the learnings from the mentoring back into the workplace. Taking part has given me perspective and increased confidence in my leadership and communication skills.

Sarah Adamson, Head of Category, Revolution Kitchen
  • Help care experienced young people get work ready with mock interviews.
  • Offer work experiences or shadowing opportunities.
  • Provide safe spaces for care experienced employees for times when they may feel overwhelmed, particularly in the early days of starting a new job.
  • When a care experienced young persons starts a job, offer to give them an inwork Mentor or buddy. Someone they can have direct contact with regularly.
  • Offer discounts for care experienced young people.
  • Guarantee interviews to any care experienced young person who applys and meets the minimum requirement.
  • Notify organisations that support care experienced young people when an job opportunity is coming up.

Zeph’s café is actively involved in our community, and we decided to create a volunteering and work experience opportunity for a care experienced young person. Martin applied for the position, and following the usual method of interviewing suitable candidates for job vacancies, he met all our expectations and was offer a four week job placement, which has now been extended.

We saw quickly that Martin was eager to learn and his enthusiasm encouraged our other cafe staff to help him when they identified he was having any degree of difficulty in fulfilling the tasks he had been set.

What we have learned from the experience is presenting opportunities and giving employees the correct support will produce benefits for both parties. We have been able to demonstrate that we are a community caring business and we feel that we have made our own difference whilst at the same time seeing the growth in confidence of our care experienced young person.

Jim Gannon, Business & Outreach Link Director, Zeph’s Café

What do care experienced young people want businesses to know about them?

  • We miss out on learning some life skills that people who grow up in a stable family take for granted, but often have skills and experiences that mean we are more independent and mature than others our age.
  • Many of us suffer from anxiety and this can flair up with the thought of interviews. Can the recruitment be different?
  • We don't have the safety net of mum and dad which means we can find it difficult to take risks to further our career. You can help encourage us to take those next steps.
  • Relationships are important to us but trust can take time to build.
  • We have lived through a lot of change in life. Things changing becomes the norm for us. Stability can be scary and new to us. It is something that can take time to learn.
  • Many of us moved around homes and schools so our education has been messed up. Please don't discount us just because we don't have the grades.
  • We are resilient.
  • We will make your workforce diverse.

Hear the voices of care experienced young people

This podcast will give an insight into the issues facing care experienced young people looking for work. It will give ideas on how to support them before and during the recruitment process, and when they are in employment.

What do Leaving Care Support Workers need to know?

Small and local is good

Look at smaller companies in the areas that the young person is interested in and look to create opportunities to speak and connect with them. Opening this connection is better than applying through a faceless online portal. Once this relationship has been established, make sure that the CV and cover letter for this young person reflects the job role and their desire to work in this field or for this company.

Big companies and their CSR: linking into UN Sustainable Development Goals and the ethical consumer

Approach larger employers to discuss their CSR targets and how they could attract diverse individuals whilst improving the outlook of care experienced young people. Employing and supporting a care experienced young person fits into the UN Sustainable Development Goals as an act of sustainability. The consumer market is changing, and consumers want to buy from ethical, greener and sustainable companies. Wealth Creation is also a topic businesses are interested in. Find out what they are doing to promote wealth creation in their area and link their responsibility to invest in their area and support communities, by supporting care experienced young people.

  • Be open around the challenges that care experienced young people can face but also highlight just how resilient this makes them
  • Explain how partnering together could help them to achieve their community and social responsibility outcomes
  • Discuss the apprenticeship levy and additional apprenticeship bursary of £1000 to an employer when recruiting a care leaver into an apprenticeship
  • Care experienced young people may lack experience or education, counteract this by offering the employer trial shifts where care experienced young people can showcase other skills such as resilience.
  • Celebrate good news stories and successes - sharing case studies with employers is perfect for this.
  • Local promise for local companies to sign to say they will support care experienced young people - We launched the Promise to Care, which is backed by the Care Leavers Covenant and has a similar aim, however, where the Covenant targets larger national corporations, we focus on local small to medium size businesses. This pledge is very flexible to suit what businesses can offer. It could be to ringfence 5 jobs for care leavers, or offer mock interviews, work experiences, work tours, mentoring or offer discounted goods etc. Businesses that sign up get a digital badge they can put on their website, and we offer training, support etc.
  • Ask your local authorities to sign the Pledge and ask them to promote it to their contractors or even have signing it as a requirement to take part in the tendering process for providing services.

What support could you offer an employer?

  • Promote that you can ensure that the individual/individuals will be prepared for employment having completed mock interviews, an employer’s expectations session (which should be tailored to that company), will have their ID, bank account, access to suitable clothing, support with travel and where necessary sector based training
  • You could offer to support with pre-screening where volumes of opportunities are offered
  • Support the company with training around what a care experienced young person is and what extra support may be needed.
  • Offer employers a point of contact with you so that they are supported throughout the first 6-12 months of the young person’s placement, addressing the challenges that both parties can face when hiring a young person with personal barriers.
  • Offer to host networking events and training days for businesses that offer support to care experienced young people.
  • Support the business with comms and PR around employing a care experienced young person. Put them in your newsletter, on your website, provide quotes from your organisation and young people, share on social media.

What support is needed for the care experienced young person?

  • Provide tailored advice to succeed through an application process, ensuring that CEYP have the skills and confidence required to apply and start work.
  • Help them to overcome challenges of applying online. This might mean asking the employer to skip processes due to the exceptional circumstances around covid-19 and young people's digital barriers. For example, forwarding CVs and cover letters instead of completing an online application form, which would be difficult to complete without access to WiFi and laptops.
  • Preparation for work – highlight the expectations of employers including time keeping and how to present themselves, travelling to work, what to do if they face any issues, what a probation period is and what to expect. When is a disclosure letter may be required and how to complete this.
  • Interview stage – mock interviews and understanding the company set up and culture
  • Corporate parenting – sending good luck texts and “a time to get up” phone call on the morning of interviews or starting work goes a long way.
  • Starting work – agree an ongoing in-work support plan to ensure the young person can discuss any concerns or issues at work with you in order to seek support and stay in employment
  • Act as a go between with the employer where necessary to resolve any issues or concerns
  • Opening young people's eyes to a range of careers, industries, and opportunities to start your own business. We run work tours where we will take a group of young people to a range of companies and industries so they can get a feel for the work environment. We also run Speedy Speakers sessions where businesses/volunteers present their industry/career in a 10 min presentation and have a 4 or 5 speakers in one session.
  • Finding young people a business mentor - It doesn't need to be anyone from the same company or industry, it just needs to be someone that has 'work' experience that can support them and be an extra pair of ears and source of advice.
  • Offering them something constructive to do while they are not in work – As unemployment rises and the jobs market becomes more competitive we need to come up with something that can keep motivated and engaged young people focused and sharp. We offer a lot of advocacy and participation work for our young people.


It is easy to lump care experienced young people together but they are a very diverse group. Their experiences vary depending on the reasons why they entered care, the age at which they entered care, their gender, sexuality, contact they may or may not have with their family, their asylum seeking status, if they have a disability and the type of care they are/were in will all impact on a young person and the type of support they need. This means there are no “one size fits all” solutions and we have to tailor support to each young person's situation and goals.

This toolkit does not have all the answers to breaking down the barriers to employment for care experienced young people. However, we hope that it leads you to conversations with young people which will increase understanding of both parties' needs and aspirations, resulting in a successful and fulfilling journey for employer and employee.

Bringing businesses, communities, local government, support agencies and young people together in partnership is the way we can make sure that no one is left behind.

Together we can.

Our work with care experienced young people

For more information about our work with care experienced young people, please contact Aidan Croughwell-Burton:

With thanks to Esmee Fairbairn for their support for our Care Experienced Young People's Programme.