Research article: Care Leavers' Access to Apprenticeships - Dr Lesley Crane

Posted 13th September 2019

In 2019, Dr Lesley Crane at Knowing How was commissioned by a leading education charity to research innovative projects, strategies and schemes throughout England designed to encourage and support care leavers successfully into apprenticeships.

Whilst the House Project was not established with the intention that all the young people would go in to apprenticeships, the psychologically informed practice framework and the House Project Learning Programme provides Care Leavers with the stability, resilience and application to follow the pathway in to apprenticeships should they wish to. The following article that was included in the final report.

‘The House Project is not a direct route to an apprenticeship for care leavers, but can be understood as a catalyst in providing the support, preparation and environment in which young people can thrive, develop and prepare for an apprenticeship or for other avenues and opportunities.

The House Project came about in 2011 when young people and staff employed with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, concluded that the ‘system’ was not working for young people (care leavers), and that these young people needed to experience education in a radically different way if they were going to have a chance of building positive lives for themselves. The House Project was conceived as a planned, psychologically-informed methodology for working with young people, giving them entitlement and support in taking personal responsibility.

What the project did was identify run down houses in the city of Stoke which the project could take over with selected young people (care leavers) put in charge of giving the property a make-over. Once completed, the house would become their home for as long as they wanted. For each property a budget is set by the Project: young people given budget ownership and empowered to hire craftsmen and tradesmen when needed, and who would not only do work, but also give on-the-job training to the young project team. In this way, the young people develop skills in trades crafts, project management and purchasing. Equally importantly, they learn how to work together as a team, to make joint decisions, hold each other accountable, set their own expectations and more. It is a world apart from the world of care in which decisions and pathways are carved out for them.

The first project was evaluated by the University of York in 2017, receiving a positive outcome. Building on this early success, the House Project is now running pilots in 5 different Local Authorities: Islington, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Rotherham and Doncaster. The National House Project, set up in 2017 with a new round of funding, became incorporated as a charity in 2018. With funding set to expire in the first quarter of 2020, work is now concentrating on building a sustainability strategy and package, with the ambition of continuing to roll out the initiative at national level.

A major selling point for the Project is the team’s calculation that compared to the costs of an Authority resourcing expensive care placements to 18 and mandatory duty to support care leavers to the age of 25, which includes housing benefits, those associated with running a House Project are far lower. Additionally savings are made by reduced demand on partner budgets (mental health, criminal justice). Based around the principles of ‘staying put’ and ‘staying close’, the House Project not only provides solid real-life skills and experiences for young people, supporting positive mental health, emotional and social development, but also represents a ‘safe step down from care’.

An important part of the programme is the personal portfolio which each young person involved has to develop and which will be accredited via AQA’s Unit Award Scheme from September. The portfolio is used to demonstrate and evidence the individual’s work readiness and the wide range of personal and social development they have undertaken from planning and running their own residential to organising network events. Participating in the House Project can be seen as a rigorous preparation programme for entering into an apprenticeship.’

Credit to Dr Lesley Crane PhD MA Bsc – Knowing How.

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