Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name Leaving Children’s Homes – New Opportunities, Better Tomorrow
Project number A0527

Project description

The objective of the Development Partnership is to promote social and occupational integration of those leaving children's homes.

According to available studies and statistics, young people who leave children's homes face huge problems when entering the labour market, much worse than those encountered by their peers attempting to find the first job. It is difficult for young people to get a job because the labour market is very demanding and competitive. Opportunities are available for those well educated, mobile, with communication skills and previous employment history. Those taken care by children's home fail to meet these criteria. They are not motivated to learning, graduate from vocational schools providing instruction in jobs that are not in demand or finish their education on the junior high school level. When entering the labour market, they hope to take advantage from assistance, but often fail to keep the job. According to surveys made by the Development Partnership, there are three reasons behind these problems: (i) the existing programme of assistance to children's home residents does not provide for a coherent vocational development path building and encouragement of pro-active attitudes; (ii) due to social stigmatisation of those leaving children's homes, employers are reluctant to hire them for fear of passivity and demanding attitudes; and (iii) growing up in a children's home is often associated with disturbed self-assessment capabilities so that entering adult life and occupational activity is more difficult for them.

The Development Partnership is planning to develop an efficient and innovative model to ensure self-dependence of young people, by combining benefits from improved existing and new skills, while broadening participants' minds and personalities.

The Project also involves - albeit to limited extent considering its pilot nature - encouragement of efforts aimed at changing perception of that group by local communities, which significantly affects the image of children's home wards as prospective labour market players.

Project beneficiaries are 170 wards aged 16 or more years and 25 ex-wards, now entering adult life, who will act as mentors of their younger mates. The activities will start at an opening integration camp, where detailed information about Partnership's plans is to be presented. The participants will have an opportunity to voice their views on the planned activities and express their fears and doubts, while promoters will be able to learn about preferences and expectations of the participants.

The Project will be delivered in modules covering vocational counselling, social skills, language courses and sports activities. Each participant is expected to complete at least two modules that are best suited to his/her interests and needs. It is assumed that in for the assistance to be effective, it must be provided on an individual and comprehensive basis, focusing on beneficiaries' vocational skills and life attitudes. Education level is to be improved by providing them with foreign language courses, day-to-day learning support and by preparing them for high school finals. The entering of labour market will be facilitated by job advice centres. Job counsels are to be recruited from educators and tutors who have completed postgraduate studies in job counselling. They will identify wards' skills and jointly plan for their career paths, choose suitable courses, familiarise them with labour market mechanisms and institutions, while explaining them the importance of work as a proactive outlook on life. Hands-on training will focus on broadly defined self-dependence, including household budget and time management, so that the wards accustomed to institutional care provided by children's home are not helpless when living on their own. In addition, a block of sessions on self-employment and enterprise encouragement will be delivered under the Project.

The promotion of children's home wards will be an important aspect of the Project. This will involve self-presentation and social communication workshops for young people and the activities of Mentoring Office. The latter is to be staffed with ex-wards as mentors who will provide support to their younger mates in starting unassisted life and act as middle persons in contacts with labour market institutions and community organisations. Mentors are to set up a database of job seekers and potential employers, ensure flow of information and raise funds for Office operations. Furthermore, a network of local employers expressing interest in hosting internships and placements for young people will be established. The Development Partnership is planning to hold a contest for the best community-minded company.

Thanks to active participation in the Project the beneficiaries will have an opportunity to enter the open labour market and integrate with the community. Full psychological support will enable them to make reasoned decisions in their unassisted life, accept responsibility for actions and strengthen their self-esteem, while training events will provide them with new useful skills and qualifications.

Dissemination activities will focus on a pretested model for starting unassisted life by young people, as well as the design of a support network including organisational structure of the mentoring office and a model of training path for the mentors. Information on ongoing activities of the Development Partnership will be available over the Internet, while partners' achievements and Project outcomes will be the subject of related publications.