Centrepoint's bursary helps young people take their important final step to independence

19 July 2021

“I’m mid-way through now. I’ve really got into it. You have a lot of support – your own tutor is assigned and they are really helpful. They give you feedback on your assignments and allow you more than one attempt.”

When Katie filled us in on her Teach English as a Foreign Language course she sounded positive; excited about where she is and where she’s going. She tell us there’s the possibility for travel: “It would be great to see the world a bit,” she muses. Katie’s sister, Millie, who is studying Beauty Therapy, has similar dreams of wanderlust: “I want to carry on with college and eventually work in a spa or on cruise ships. It seems like a nice option.”

The chance to travel and learn is an exciting life development for any teenager discovering their potential, but it’s doubly as exciting for Katie and Millie. This has not always been a possibility for the sisters, who came to Centrepoint after there wasn’t enough room to stay at their mum’s house.

Katie and Millie’s journeys are just starting, but from Centrepoint’s perspective, this is one journey that’s about to come to fruition. Because for the young people that Centrepoint helps, the road to independence doesn’t simply start with gaining a place on an educational course – that’s actually one of the last steps.

When a young person arrives at Centrepoint, they have often lived a life that no one their age should have to endure. Many have had a family breakdown, or suffered abuse, or have left care with no one to turn to. These traumas are usually fertile ground for becoming homeless: without someone to care for them and put a stable roof over their heads, young people will often resort to rough sleeping or sofa surfing. And this completely upends any sense of normality or stability these young people so desperately need: the toll of disturbed sleep and nowhere safe to stay means an education can fall to the wayside.

Arriving at Centrepoint therefore provides a pivotal moment: our mantra is ‘a job and a home’, and we work hard with the young people who come through our doors to make sure that that hope for independence becomes a reality. But it’s a process – it culminates in providing a secure place to sleep with our accommodation; a stable and nutritious diet thanks to our Food Bank and dieticians; and help processing trauma with our dedicated health team.

It’s only at this point that vulnerable young people ready to start getting their education back on track. And our educational offering is tailored to each person within our care. It doesn’t matter what stage they’re at with their learning or how big or small they want to dream, our Centrepoint Works team are ready to help them take it on, whether it’s becoming confident in core maths, English and IT skills, or teaching vital life skills such as key interview prep for a job or educational placement.

A employment offer or a placement in higher education is such an achievement for young people whose lives have previously been focused solely on survival, and it brings them so close to achieving our ‘job and home’ mantra. But after all that hard work, it can fail to materialise if the young person then can’t afford their accommodation, or the equipment they need for their course, or even the bus fare to get to work.

That’s where our Bursary comes in. For Katie and Millie, they couldn’t have carried on with their courses without it. “The bursary paid for everything – it’s been so helpful,” Katie said. “It’s another stepping stone into helping you with what you need to move on. The course will help me to get a job and I wouldn’t have been able to afford it on my own. I don’t know where else I’d get that support.”

There are three strands to our Bursary offering. The Hardship Fund is for everyone, and really goes back to the crux of what makes young people drop out of education in the first place: the fear of not having the basic essentials you need to make it through the day. No one should be worried about where their next meal is coming from, or whether they can afford basic toiletries. The Hardship Fund eliminates that worry, providing day-to-day essentials so they can focus all their attention on their studies or work.

The University Fund can cover a young person’s tuition, or their travel to lectures, or the equipment they need to complete their higher education, like course textbooks or a laptop – this is the kind of fund that supports Katie in her TEFL course.

And lastly, there’s The Employment, Education and Training Fund – this provides the essentials for a young person about to embark on their first steps into a career: travel passes, interview clothes, and vital equipment for apprenticeships.

This is the kind of fund that supports Tayo.

Tayo has been with Centrepoint for six months and is currently undertaking a plumbing apprenticeship. His uncle was a plumber, and after helping him out on occasion, Tayo took an instant liking to the trade. But the tools and clothing for his course are expensive: “At the point I was at in the apprenticeship, I needed these things in order to progress and to be able to do the work and learn,” he recalls. “If I didn’t have the tools, I’d still be learning, but I wouldn’t be learning by doing; I’d be shadowing and wouldn’t be able to get stuck in.”

So, Centrepoint helped him out – the Bursary was able to pay for his boots and clothing. “After I got my tools I was able to do a lot more jobs and it really started moved my learning forwards. It took my progression at work very far ahead and I’m so grateful for that.”

Within a couple of years, Tayo could be a qualified plumber. Katie could be teaching English halfway across the world; Millie could be doing hair and makeup from one country to the next. Other Bursary recipients have gone on to study midwifery, forensic science, law, biomedical engineering, civil engineering and so much more. The only thing standing between these young people and their potential was the funds to get there. Our Bursary provides that bridge, ensuring that a young person’s past doesn’t get in the way of their future.