Support for care leavers looking for work
Looking for a job is daunting enough, but if you've left the care system you might be worried you'll experience prejudice from employers. Luckily there's support available to help you get through this tricky transition.
How do I start looking for a job?
Before you leave your final care placement you should have a statutory review meeting where you can make plans for the future with your social worker and carers. It's your chance to talk about what you want to do and what support you'd like.
Toni, 17, had no idea what she wanted to do when she left care so she went to see an advisor at Connexions. "They helped me with my CV and then helped me find a job," she says. To her surprise she ended up getting an Apprenticeship in plastering. "It was the last thing on my mind to be honest," she says
What help is available after I leave care?
Your local authority has a duty to provide you with a personal adviser (PA) who should help you with careers advice, training and job hunting. Depending on where you live, your PA could someone from your local Leaving Care Team in social services, or someone from Connexions. If you're not in touch with anyone it's best to contact Connexions directly, as their service is available to everyone.
If you fancy doing an Apprenticeship, a government scheme called From Care 2 Work could help you find one at companies such as Tesco, Odeon and Aviva. There could even be places reserved specifically for care leavers, but you'll need to check with your PA, as the scheme is being rolled out around the country.
Ian, 18, is doing an apprenticeship at the Department for Education. The education officer in his Leaving Care Team told him about the job months before it was advertised, so Ian feels that being in care has worked in his favour. "It's actually more of an advantage because of the network of people you meet."
There could even be places reserved specifically for care leavers, but you'll need to check.
According to Ian, being in care doesn't always mean you're at a disadvantage. "Use every single opportunity you can. If someone provides a scheme, then use that. Listen to advice and guidance, do some research and use Connexions," he says. "It's not that different for anyone going for a job, the advice would be the same."
What about money?
If you're over 18 and looking for work you could be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), as well as other benefits to help with things like housing. Care leavers may be exempt from some housing regulations like the 'single room rent' rule, and be entitled to extra benefits. Your PA should make sure you claim everything you're supposed to, or speak to an adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or your local council. If you leave care when you're under 18, social services should provide financial support.
What if I've missed out on some education?
There are lots of options to help you get the qualifications for the job you want. Connexions will help you re-sit exams or study in a relaxed setting if you don't feel like going back to school. You can take a diploma or NVQ, or an access to learning qualification if you want to go to university but don't have A-levels.
Is it harder finding work when you've been in care?
You don't have to tell anyone about your background. However, Christine advises you explain your situation if there are gaps in your CV. "Your Connexions adviser could put a covering letter in with your application, saying you've had difficulties that have affected your performance, but that you've got the ability to succeed with the right support."
By Louise Ridley
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