AM – That’s a really interesting link. Housing associations create a lot of employment opportunities as well with property maintenance, administration and finance and they’ve got huge employment machines behind them. Have you seen any other similar models where perhaps those who were offering the housing are creating the job opportunities within the association as well?
MG – Yes, though not enough. We’ve got an amazing relationship with Bournville Village Trust, based in the West Midlands, who are looking at how they can increase employee employment capacity within their group. They’re not necessarily apprenticeships but there was definitely an employment offering, as well as a housing offer too.
AM – Is there more that should be getting done around the Social Value Act, do you think?
MG – I think there’s always more that we, we can be doing but we have come a long way
Considering that there was no internship scheme three years ago, and now we have 300. Organisations such as ITV are involving social mobility care leavers and embracing social value which is a massive step forward and the likes of Amazon have instigated firstname.lastname@example.org for anybody who has an enquiry and is driven by their commitment to social value.
So, yes, there is more that can be done, but I’m celebrating the milestones that we’ve reached.
AM – It really is incredible. I think it’s creating such a momentum behind it as well because so many employers want to do more. They just perhaps don’t know where to start. Particularly SMEs and smaller employers who don’t have big corporate social responsibility teams or social value teams. What should they be doing? Should they be ring-fencing positions and saying, this is going to be for care leaver, or would it work better if they had more inclusive recruitment practices so it became more part of just how they work as an organisation rather than being something on its own?
MG – I think it’s all of the above. Quite frankly I have found that SMEs, are our strongest partners.
SME’s generally have a local connection and a shared value of reciprocity. Working with somebody local drives benevolence and action. And that’s where SMEs can make a difference. Because there is a local robust connection and local commitment to helping individuals who may be from your area. There is a natural inherent rapport.
I’ve seen strong examples in Leeds and also in Cheshire where SMEs have really grasped the nettle when it comes to playing their part.
AM – We’ve definitely seen that from the Hertfordshire programme that we’re launching. It is about local employers wanting to help local communities. Quite deliberately, we haven’t gone for some of the biggest employers in the county because we want it to be a much more personalised approach, and to also create a variety of positions across different industries, sectors and job roles. Individuals need choice, and they need variety and it wouldn’t be fair to kind of homogenise everyone into one group and say “There you go care leavers, there are your 15 vacancies”.
MG – I’m also very keen to see it work in rural communities like Somerset, Devon, Cornwall where young people are represented but you might not have some of the larger multinationals in those spaces – in those regions we rely quite heavily on SMEs stepping up and so that’s why I think initiatives like kickstart will add value. You know levelling the playing fields or being more equitable options.
AM – What is your greatest wish for this moment of change, this post-pandemic recovery where it feels like employers are looking at things differently, recognising their social responsibility?
MG – There are so many. I’d like to draw inspiration from the Empathy Summit and something that Sir Peter Basil, chairman of ITV said,
“We have 25% of individuals who are in prison who are care experienced and 7% who are in Higher Education. Wouldn’t it be great if we could reverse that!”
I think if we are going to reverse that trend apprenticeships, psychologically informed environments are going to need to play a role. You have young people who with complex vulnerabilities who live within the criminal justice system who need to find hope in wider society, facilitating opportunities and being champions for them.
Empathy is going to drive all of that, empathy, facilitation and consistency. We are looking at real culture change which needs to last if we’re going to see significant sustainable change.
AM – I’m keen to break down some of those misconceptions around care leavers or care experienced individuals as a group, and help more employers to understand and realise those brilliant skills and attributes that some of those individuals could bring to them. What do you think will help this?
MG – An employer needs to understand that they might not gain a complete academic history with a care leaver, or there may be times when they might react differently to a situation within the workplace. If we can be more mindful, open and embracing, employers will see that by diversifying their workforce they will be adding to their culture. It shouldn’t be about necessarily finding someone to fit in, rather someone to challenge, to rock the boat. You will never diversify if you just keep recruiting to type.
AM – Finally, what is your favourite part of the covenant?
MG – Connecting with our young people. There are all of the stories on the website. stories of resilience and perseverance and overcoming adversity. It gives you inspiration and motivation to do more. And to keep pushing.
Connecting with our young people is what authenticates our whole process and engagement, and knowing that you’re going to make a positive difference.