We have worked with hundreds of young people who have left care and are making their way into the world of work. Charlie Springer is one of the young people we have been pleased to support. Here’s his inspiring story…

I left care at 18 after successfully bidding for a flat, from then on I had to manage everything on my own; from food shopping and cooking, to paying bills and seeking employment. It was a massive adjustment and I had no choice other than to do my best to adjust. In my opinion the hardest thing was not the tasks themselves, not the responsibility, but knowing that it was sink or swim and the only person who decided whether succeeded was me.

Some care leavers have support from family after leaving care but I didn’t have my parents to help me as they simply didn’t care and I had to rely completely on myself. It wasn’t just about getting used to the demand of practical tasks it was also coping emotionally and getting used to living alone. I spent years seeking a full-time job and had a lot of knockbacks. I had done work experience where I worked very hard, and was told I would get a job at the end or an interview and those things never happened. This really affected my confidence and perspective on society. I was on my own and I felt like no one cared or wanted to give me a job, it made me feel isolated and worthless, like I was some sort of prisoner; an outsider from society.

About two years down the line, having signed on at the Jobcentre, doing various work experience placements and applying for jobs over and over (and almost never get replies, let alone an interview) I felt like I just had to accept that I would never get a job and I was clearly not good enough for one, for whatever reason. I was constantly depressed, stressed and anxious, there was absolutely no happiness in my life and no hope, it was just surviving each day like an animal. Around this time I decided I had nothing to lose in telling someone so I explained to my advisor at the Jobcentre that I was a care leaver, laid all the cards on the table and told the truth about my circumstances and exactly how it was all making me feel; at this point the advisor then referred me to Drive Forward.

When I first went to Drive Forward I had spent so much time indoors because of my circumstances that going to their premises near central London was a big thing! When I went there I just thought it was going to be one of those places the Jobcentre send you to, to keep you busy while you look for work, but I soon learned it was specifically for people who have been in care. I was only with Drive Forward for a little while, but they made a big impact on me. I went on a ‘treasure hunt day’ around London where we had to find clues and compete with the other groups/teams, met employers and got help with my CV. They helped me get work ready and sent me to a place nearby where they give you smart items of clothing for work for free, that has been donated from people who no longer want/need them.

It doesn’t sound like a lot but there isn’t much (if any) support for care leavers and when there is some provided it’s the little things that count, even just being around other care leavers and having people show an interest in your life and circumstances, I don’t think care leavers expect someone to solve all their problems or change their whole life in a day. In my opinion all they want and need is some recognition of all they have been able to overcome and a little helping hand to integrate into society, keep the faith, find employment, make friends, and have a chance of a stable life and a proper future. After attending Drive Forward for a good few weeks I had felt more positive, came out of my comfort zone and gained determination.

Soon after I ended up going to an interview, where I wore my smart new clothes and ended up with an Apprenticeship! Seven months on and I have stability and a bright future ahead if I continue to work hard and keep striving to be the best I can be at my job. I now attend college where I am studying a Level 2 NVQ in Business Administration and I plan to do a Level 3 next year!

There are plenty more young people like Charlie living across London. If you can help us to reach them, or want to find out more about our work, please contact us and mention this post.