JLP launches national effort to help care-experienced people into work

The John Lewis Partnership is announcing a new plan to support young people leaving the care system – a community too often overlooked by employers – to find meaningful jobs.  

This forms part of the Partnership’s long term ambition to become the employer of choice for young people who are care experienced, and is even more important in a cost of living crisis and with so many businesses facing recruitment challenges. 

There are over 108,000 children in care across the UK today – in local authority care or foster homes and tens of thousands more have spent some time in care1. Many are often moved between accommodation at late notice, and it’s not uncommon for these young people to move 20 or 30 times before they’re 18. 

Lack of opportunity means that young people who grow up in care are three times less likely to be in education, employment or training by the time they reach 19 than their peers. Young people who’ve been in care are a third more likely to be made homeless than to go to university – with 6% of ‘care leavers’2 supported to go onto further education, compared to over a third of their peers3.

We have been impressed by Timpsons and their employment of ex-offenders and we want to have the same impact through time with care experienced young people.  

For the last eighteen months we have been working with Councils and charities in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Nottingham and Essex to provide training and employment in our John Lewis and Waitrose stores to care experienced young people4.  It is early days and we are learning lessons, but we want to do more. 

New ‘Building Happier Futures’ Employment Programme

We’re therefore creating a ‘Building Happier Futures’ employment programme, which will see us employing more care experienced people in more parts of the country.  We’re keen to work with small businesses, charities and community organisations that want to hire or further the career of someone who is care experienced.

In time we would like to launch dedicated apprenticeships for care leavers and offer financial support for young people who have been in care to pursue further or higher education5.  

Supporting initiatives
We have established an Advisory Group of experts in the field5 – many of whom are themselves care experienced – to ensure we are addressing the real needs of this community.

We have formed new partnerships with two charities Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland, supporting their fundraising efforts.

Over time we will support projects from organisations within the care sector that are working to build happier futures for care experienced people, helping to prepare them for employment.

Support for Government action 
We support the calls being made by care experienced people for Government action and investment to improve the life chances of this group. Specifically: 

  • No child or young person should be placed in unsafe, unregulated or care-less accommodation, and that all children – including 16 and 17 year olds – should receive care where they live.
  • All young people from care have a right to a continuous caring presence, regardless of age or postcode – removing the cliff edge that happens in, or even before adulthood.
  • A portion of the significant amount in unspent apprenticeship levy is used to provide targeted support for those leaving care to be able to afford to pursue further education while also being able to financially make ends meet.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Equality Summit today (18 October), Sharon White, John Lewis Partnership Chairman, will say: “Children and young people whose childhoods were spent in care face profound challenges. Young people who are care experienced are more likely to be made homeless than to go to university.

“Thousands of young people with potential are being overlooked in the national conversation and that urgently needs to change. The John Lewis Partnership from its very foundations has always had a strong social purpose – providing healthcare before the NHS. 

We want over time to become the employer of choice for young people leaving the care system. We know they make fantastic Partners (employees) and we can in turn provide the opportunity for meaningful work and the chance to progress.  

“We would love to join forces with other businesses wishing to recruit so we can help more young people.”

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