"There is a strong case for the creation of 100% Employment Opportunities for care leavers – both economically and in terms of social justice."
Aiming Higher was a mentoring project which matches young people with experience of care with business mentors in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area.
Volunteer mentors were encouraged to give a couple of hours each week to support a young person on the project and all volunteers gained an accredited training qualification. During a six month period mentors from BiTCNI member companies and the young mentees, who were not in education, employment or training, participated in a weekly activity which was aimed at improving their employability skills and readiness to enter the workplace.
In December 2015 research was commissioned by Include Youth and BiTCNI to further build on the work of Aiming Higher, and indeed the work of other Northern Ireland-based projects and initiatives that support young people in or leaving care. The research, by academics at Huddersfield University, outlines three different options for policymakers to consider, which if implemented could create 100 per cent employment opportunities for young people in care:
Provision of new jobs specifically earmarked for care leavers not in education, employment or training Ring-fence a small proportion of existing jobs specifically for care leavers A Care Leavers' Pledge calling upon employers to support care leavers