Why employers should consider hiring young care leavers

During National Care Leavers Week, Justin Tomlinson explains why organisations should offer more opportunities to people who have had a difficult start in life

Sadly, around one in three care leavers aren’t in work or education. It’s heartbreaking that so many young people continue to face such struggles which are often due to factors out of their control. Often, care leavers have a less steady start in life, and as a society we have a collective responsibility to ensure that any unavoidable difficulties faced in their childhood don’t affect their ability to succeed as an adult.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to support care leavers, which is why I fully support the Care Leaver Covenant – a package of support for young people leaving care announced last week by children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi – and the See Potential employment campaign, which aims to show how simple changes to recruitment practices could make a difference in recruiting people from a range of backgrounds.

At my recent visit to PGL’s Marchants Hill centre in Surrey, a See Potential sponsor, I got to see the benefits of their care leaver employment programme which helps some of the UK’s most vulnerable young people to find work. I met a care leaver who works as a catering assistant at the recently updated site. The diverse and inclusive workforce enables ambitious and talented care leavers to see their potential. 

The government is passionate about improving the lives and life chances of care leavers, including improving access to employment and training. The 2013 cross-government strategy for young people leaving care introduced policies and practices so that care leavers were better supported across a number of areas including health, employment and housing.

Through the Care Leaver Covenant, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is boosting the practical support available to care leavers, such as apprenticeships or work experience, linking them up with private and voluntary organisations as well as government departments. This includes:

  • enabling care leavers to make an advanced claim for Universal Credit up to 28 days before their 18th birthday;
  • offering young people making a new claim to Universal Credit the opportunity to take part in the Youth Obligation Support Programme. This provides support, skills and experience to motivate young people into finding employment and fulfil their potential; and 
  • building a closer partnership between Jobcentres and Local Authority Leaving Care Teams for the benefit of care leavers building on the access they have with their personal advisers.

We’ve also recently announced our collaboration with children’s charity Barnardo’s to help ensure more care leavers are job-ready by developing their skills through a work experience scheme. The Barnardo’s placements include mentoring to help care leavers adjust to the world of work, helping them gain a variety of skills and build up their CVs. But ultimately there’s more to do and that’s why we want to work with employers to offer further opportunities. 

Businesses need to look beyond the obvious to consider where untapped talent might lie, in order to fill skills shortages. To get the best staff, you need to recruit on the basis of talent and potential – not background. 

Responsible business equals stronger business, and inclusive recruitment and valuing staff welfare builds a better workforce and a more resilient and productive business. I urge all employers to ‘See Potential’ in people from all walks of life, including care leavers. 

There is already great support for See Potential – Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden and Simon Cowell are the project’s ambassadors, and the campaign is supported by well over 100 employers, including brands like Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Costa Coffee and EY.

Get involved and find out how you can make sure you’re recruiting the best people for the job by visiting the See Potential website.

Justin Tomlinson MP is minister for family support, housing and child maintenance