2021.02.16 WEB BANNER DSC 2411

Centrepoint Works is fundamental to supporting young people into independence

A large proportion of young people entering Centrepoint’s services are not in education, employment or training (NEET).  Furthermore, young people experiencing homelessness are disproportionately more likely find it a challenge to enter or sustain employment, education and training, because of challenges like mental health problems, the financial pressures of living independently and complex family relationships.

As Senior Case Studies Officer at Centrepoint and a former teacher, Tamsin Clements has seen the impact first hand. On Thank a Teacher Day, Tamsin explores how Centrepoint Works, our in-house learning and employment offer, can support young people who may have fallen through the cracks in the education system.   

Centrepoint Works was set up in 2016, although the learning team has existed in some form within Centrepoint for over 15 years. The programme supports young people from across the UK into employment, training or education – a key part of our strategy in enabling young people to move on from homelessness.

The IAG & Jobs Team (Careers Education Information, Advice & Guidance), headed by Sadie Odeogberin, is the first port of call for young people wanting to access education, training and employment. Every young person who is NEET, is assigned a Jobs and Education Team (JET) Advisor to complete a skills mapper assessment. This helps to identify their strengths and learning needs and tailor the support. The JET team, managed by Shade Oladiti, is the gateway to supporting a young person’s short, medium and long-term goals and aspirations.

“We really encourage them not to limit themselves by the things they haven’t got or haven’t done. Many young people may have had negative experiences of education. Many of them left school early, so the biggest barriers are a lack of qualifications and confidence in their abilities. We try to find out their preferred way of learning when we do a skills mapper with them right at the start. It’s really finding the appropriate learning environment for them,” Shade says.

The support doesn’t end once a young person enters education, employment or training and is complemented by Centrepoint’s Bursary Scheme, set up by Sadie in 2007. She says this is fundamental to the learning offer: “Without the bursary, the majority of our young people wouldn’t be able to access education, employment and training. It removes the financial barriers for them and that is key for a young person who has no family support.”

This support alleviates a lot of the financial pressure young people experience. “We receive so much positive feedback from the young people supported by the bursary,” says Paul Beaumont, Senior Bursary Coordinator. “Hearing how that support has helped young people is the best part of my job.”

One young person says, “The continuous support that I have received from Centrepoint has been fundamental to remaining in higher education. It’s allowed me to focus on studying rather than managing finances. I’m currently in my second of four years of university – without their bursary, I don’t think I would be able to do what I do.”

Shannon Pink, a former Centrepoint resident studying at London Metropolitan University, has found the bursary particularly valuable during the pandemic: “Because I am doing a creative course (Fashion), Centrepoint provided me with a specialist laptop which has a touch screen. This has allowed me to do digital sketches. I wouldn’t be able to do my course without this laptop as most of the learning so far has been online. With my last bursary payment, I bought a sewing machine; we can’t use the ones at uni because of Covid. I grew up using sewing machines and it’s essential for my course. I would not be able to afford one without that help.”

Centrepoint Works also has a training team, headed up by Sara Lewis, which aims to bridge the gap between education and training. They support young people in areas such as maths and English, as well as running longer programmes on functional skills. They also help young people with employability skills – CV writing, interview prep, as well as social skills – such as Developing Resilience and Understanding Motivation. Young people have the opportunity to take part in Traineeship programmes, which include a work experience placement for a minimum of 70 hours, or be supported into formal education like college or university.

 “We can be flexible and tailor things to the young person’s needs,” says Sara.  “We understand that we have a lot of work to do with a young person to get them to a place where they can even contemplate being back in a formal educational setting. The education system can be a one-size-fits-all approach and it’s just not the way life is. We have a small, dedicated and highly skilled workforce and we are able to identify those steps and take the time to work with young people to break down those barriers and support them to get through those difficult times.”

Wendy Gurr, who manages the training teams in the south of England, echoes this sentiment.

“For those that aren’t fully engaged yet, we will do more bite-sized learning programmes that get them into a routine and ready for learning again. A school environment is not for everyone – there are a lot of young people who just can’t cope with it. So having our little programme is really helpful for them where they get more one-on-one or small group support.”

Most importantly, for many of the young people Centrepoint Works support, the biggest hurdle is getting a young person to believe they can achieve something. As Wendy says, “We raise their aspirations. We see some amazing transformations in the young people we support. The change in confidence can be the most important thing to help them progress.”

Over the past year, the bursary is supporting 77 university students; 283 young people have been supported into education; and the team have moved just under 120 people into employment. “My team are so dedicated,” Shade says. “I love the fact that they go above and beyond for the young people and think outside the box to find ways to meet their needs.”

In Sara’s training team, they had 65 young people aged 16-25 access CP Works training services. Of those, 23 accessed a Traineeship programme, one accessed an apprenticeship, and 41 accessed classroom programmes. “My team are amazing and they are so committed to helping young people,” Wendy enthuses. “They want to see young people achieve.”

“The best thing about my job?” reflects Shade, “The young people and their successes, it’s so wonderful to see their journeys; seeing them flourish and their confidence and persistence much of the time against all odds.”

In 2020/21, 80% of young people supported by  Centrepoint Works moved on as EET. Leaving Centrepoint EET means a young person has a better chance of remaining independent and sustaining a home. Our CP Works team is vital in supporting young people in this way. We salute you!