'Nobody's ever been as patient with me'

John Cairney

Teenagers in care have been granted a second chance to gain employment skills, writes John Cairney.

Social workers and careers advisers in Glasgow have joined forces to tackle the problems facing young people in care looking for education or job training.

Launchpad to Careers, in the city's north-west, helps 16- to 24-year-olds in residential care, in foster care, in residential schools or on home supervision not only to find jobs but to keep them.

In the past year it has had 74 referrals, and its team is supporting more than 40 young people at the moment.

Its careers adviser, Mary Carson, works with the equivalent of one-and-a-half social workers and defines her role as providing vocational guidance leading on to a career plan of action.

The social workers' job is to supply counselling and appropriate support when required. Many of the young people involved have been poor attenders at school.

Ms Carson says: "Young people in care do not access education and employment training in the same proportions as others in their age group. We are attempting to rectify that.

"Many of them do not have qualifications when they leave school. We find that they respond better to small groups and individual attention and engage well with us."

The client prepares for employment, training or education by undertaking modules provided by John Wheatley College in such subjects as communications, numeracy and computing.

One 20-year-old client, who started in January, began on basic number work and graduated to computing and communications. She says: "I am doing things now that I didn't do before, because people are more patient and understanding than they were at school."

A 16-year-old boy, who found a work placement after the team prepared him for his interview, says: "When there was a problem in the placement, the staff helped me sort it out. I completed the placement and then got an SVQ in road maintenance."

Ms Carson is in no doubt that the success of the project is down to the effectiveness of the partnership. "Knowing that we share the young people and being able to pool the professional expertise of both services has worked to the advantage of these youngsters," she says.

The Scottish Enterprise New Futures funding, which is paying for the scheme for two years, is under review.

However, the project is due to go city-wide with money from the Scottish Executive, the existing social work budget and The Big Step, a social inclusion partnership focusing on young people coming out of care in Glasgow.

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John Cairney

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