Set up in January 2016, the Drive Forward Ambassadors group celebrated its one-year anniversary in March. King’s College London kindly provided a beautiful space for current ambassadors and those interested in joining the group to get together and look back on a busy year.
Our special thanks go to Ric Waters aka A Boy Called Ric for joining us and sharing his music, lyrics, and inspiration with us.
Drive Ambassadors are committed to making a difference to the lives of future young people leaving care. They have given their time, skill, and effort to support young care leavers on their journey into independence, whilst speaking up to raise awareness and bring about policy change.
Peer mentoring scheme
Mentoring has become a proven practice of effectively supporting young people on their journey into adulthood and independence. Understood as an ongoing relationship in which a more experienced and knowledgeable person (the mentor) provides advice and support for a less experienced individual (the mentee), mentoring can help a person to make significant transitions in their thinking and personal development.
Peer mentoring further provides the benefit of personal insight and mutual understanding. Shared experiences can help breaking down individual barriers, making it easier to establish trust and build a fruitful relationship.
Having successfully managed the transition into independence and meaningful employment, Drive Forward Ambassadors act as positive role models for other care leavers starting out on their career. They know the perils of leaving care, the insecurity and financial pressure, and are all too familiar with the overwhelming fear of the unknown, that is being on your own, literally.
As peer mentors, our ambassadors are a listening ear to the concerns and worries of their mentees. They help them navigate the world of work, share their own experiences and provide tips on time management, planning, and goal setting.
Over the past months, our ambassadors encouraged young care leavers to take advantage of the various sessions and programmes we offer, be it to build transferable skills in creative workshops, or come along to visit our corporate partners and build their professional networks. Drive Forward ambassadors have played a pivotal role in keeping young people engaged with our charity, boosting individuals’ confidence and helping them achieve their goals.
Advocating for fair and just housing
Affordable rent, social landlords, the housing crisis and other catch phrases have been dominating public debate for quite a while. You may have heard that one in four 20 something Britons still lives with their parents and that young people believe that owning your own home is a thing of the past.
For care leavers, however, the situation is even more complicated. Many of them do not have a family home to go back to, no financial cushion to get through tough times, no shoulder to lean on. Recent changes to social housing policy hinders care leavers to move into independence, whilst increasing the risk of debt, long-term unemployment and homelessness.
Having experienced precarious housing situations themselves, Drive Ambassadors set up an advocacy committee to raise public awareness and promote policy change. Led by Jordan Morgan from Forward Thinking, they initiated focus group as well as 1-2-1 consultations with care leavers and housing managers, collecting valuable data and information on how the lack of long-term affordable, secure tenancy, and a change to short-term insecure tenancy, is creating barriers for one of society’s most socio-economically disadvantaged groups. After several meetings with policy makers, MPs and Lords, the group presented their case in the House of Lords last December, prompting Lord Listowel to mention what he had learned from his encounter with our young people during the debate that followed in the House of Lords.
Inspired and motivated by this first success, Ambassadors and the Drive Forward team joined forces to start an insightful research project to highlight the real-life effects of social housing reforms including ‘affordable rent’ and ‘fixed term tenancy’ on London’s care leavers. You can read up on some preliminary findings in our policy brief.
Raising awareness amongst London employers and Local Authorities
Drive Ambassadors have been eager to support our team with organising events and panels, aimed at sensitizing corporate partners and local authority staff to what it means to be a care leaver in London. By sharing their stories and experiences of leaving care and embarking on a career on their own, they deepened practitioners understanding of the many barriers care leavers have to face on a daily basis, be it emotional pressure, financial instability, insecure housing or mental health issues, and enable them to change their own practices and procedure to facilitate young care leavers’ futures.