Building on our successful work with young people, and to mark our 70th anniversary, we have founded Dorset Chamber Life Skills, raising funds to provide life skills and employability support to young people in care and care leavers, aged 13 to 25 years. Our partners, Dorset Community Foundation, provide governance alongside receiving and distributing the funds raised.
Children and young people are taken into the care of a local authority for a variety of reasons. There are currently over 72,000 children and young people in care in England and this number is increasing. Once in care, they can reside with foster parents, live in supported lodgings or sometimes be placed in a residential unit. This can sometimes be a long distance from their home, creating an upheaval in education, personal security and wellbeing. The addition of the challenges of teenage years teenage can also detract them from the ability to focus on careers and their future employability at a time when the secondary education system traditionally offers this support. Source Department for Education.
During 2016, 485 children and young people in Dorset were in care (an increase of 27% between 2015/2017).
Longer term, the aim for all children and young people in care is to either return home, become adopted with a new family or continue to be supported in care into adulthood but along the way they need support to become employable young adults.
Statistics show that young people in care and care leavers are often disadvantaged and their life chances are significantly worse than for young people in general.
Some examples are:
- Those who have been in care between the ages of 10 and 17 are five times more likely to be convicted of a criminal offence or subject to a final warning or reprimand. Source Howard League for Penal Reform).
- Children in care are five times more likely to be excluded from school. Source Department for Education.
- Only 6% of young people that have been in care will attend university, compared to almost 50% of the general population. Source Department for Education.
- In Dorset, 40% of care leavers are not in education, training or employment. Source Hidden Dorset 2.
- Young people in care and care leavers face a much higher risk of homelessness, teenage pregnancy and unemployment compared to the general population. Their journey through life can be lonely, disrupted, unstable and troubled. Source National Audit Office – Care leavers’ transition to adulthood.
We are raising funds to provide life skills and employability support to improve the life chances of young people in care and care leavers.
This support can include:
- Helping recruit and support employers that can provide valuable and supportive work experience opportunities.
- Finding volunteer business mentors that can provide one to one support.
- Funding safeguarding training for these volunteer mentors.
- Funding workshops to improve self-esteem and develop functional skills.
- Funding life skills workshops for Care Leavers to prepare them for independence including money management, cooking on a budget and healthy living.
- Funding employability workshops to support job searching, CV writing support and interview skills.
All funded training and support is delivered by community and voluntary organisations. The fund is also delivered in partnership with local authorities in Dorset and care has been taken to only fund support where there are clear gaps in provision or where funding does not already exist for identified support. There are also opportunities for businesses in Dorset to get involved and offer support.
How can you help?
- You could make a donation to the Dorset Chamber Life Skills fund. All contributions by a business are tax deductible.
- You could create a work experience placement to give valuable experience to a young person, helping build their confidence.
- You could be a volunteer business mentor, helping build the confidence and employability skills of a young person in or leaving care. We will pay for your safeguarding training.
- If you are a commercial training organisation, you could donate places on your training courses that would be of value to a young person in or leaving care.
To date, the business community has over £4,000 to this important project that can really make a difference to the lives of young people in and leaving care.