Young people’s charity calls on UK employers to give care leavers more opportunities

The National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) is calling on UK employers to offer more opportunities for young people leaving care after new figures showed almost one-third of 18-year-old care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET) – compared to the national overall figure of just 12 per cent.

The statistics on looked-after children, released last month by the Department for Education, showed 31 per cent of 18-year-old care leavers were NEET while only 16 per cent were in training or employment.

The call for employers to open their doors to look after children comes as NYAS unveils two new aspirational videos created from scratch by young people in care.

Delivered through NYAS’s “Digital Life Stories” project, funded through the Big Lottery Fund, the objective of the six-month campaign has been to encourage young people to learn a range of new skills and engage in a series of workshops on film-making and marketing.

The two films – one an animation and one based on a poem written by a 16-year-old boy who lives in care – were released to mark National Care Leavers Week, a campaign by the Care Leavers Foundation designed to raise awareness of the issues facing care leavers in the UK.

NYAS Chief Executive Rita Waters said: “These young people face many challenges but the figures released recently by the Department for Education really highlighted one particular issue. Young care leavers are not going on to work, education or training and that is a problem we have to act upon.

“We want employers to give children leaving care more of a chance and to make sure they have a guaranteed job interview or access to further education.

“We know there are some fantastic schemes like bursaries and apprenticeships already out there but more needs to be done to make sure these fantastic, talented young people get the start in life they deserve. That’s why we want to make sure the government continues to assist them in education, training or into work. And that’s why projects like Digital Life Stories are so important if we are to encourage more young people in care to dream big.”

The Digital Life Stories project has seen NYAS work with Everton in the Community (EITC), Edge Hill University and Olympic star Kriss Akabusi.

An emotional first film features the voices, thoughts and ideas of young people from EITC’s Breathing Space project, as well as some who work with NYAS, and Akabusi, who himself grew up in care.

The ‘This is who we are’ film based on the poem was shot on location at Edge Hill University, near Ormskirk, and at Everton’s Goodison Park home.

And the concept for the other film, an inspiring animation, was created by young people who work with NYAS in Devon and South Wales with help from award-winning Cheshire PR firm No Brainer and Manchester-based engagement agency Trunk.

“We are so proud of what the young people taking part in the Digital Life Stories have achieved,” Rita added. “We set out to make sure they were right at the heart of the project and could take the films any way they chose.

“The ideas they had blew us all away and the finished films are better than we could ever have imagined. It’s an experience we hope many of them will cherish for the rest of their lives and use to inspire their future careers.”

Wirral-based charity NYAS, which supports vulnerable young people all over the country, has been working on the Big Lottery-funded ‘Digital Life Stories’ project throughout 2017.

NYAS is a rights-based charity which operates across England and Wales for children, young people and adults, providing them with advocacy and legal representation when important decisions are being made about them.

Over the last 12 months alone, NYAS has supported more than 9,000 children and young people. The charity provides advocacy services in 59 local authorities, has acted on 115 reportable safeguarding concerns and matched 379 vulnerable children and young people with an independent visitor.

Kriss Akabusi was born in London in 1958 but then placed in care when his parents moved back to Nigeria four years later. He has since gone on to launch his own charity – the Akabusi Charitable Trust – which works with young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) to help prepare them for the world of work.