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York project inspires nationwide care leaver plan

Posted on 7 July 2009

A pioneering project that supports care leavers in York has been held up by the Government as a blueprint for employers nationwide to follow.

Starting Blocks, set up by the charity York Cares with partner organisations Aviva, City of York Council, University of York and York Marriott Hotel, helps young people leaving care to develop their skills by providing work placements tailored to their needs.

The transition to independent living and employment can be a hugely difficult one for young people in care

Jacqui Tesselment, Manager of York Cares

York Cares is an employee-volunteering charity, based at the University of York, which inspires employers, employees and communities to tackle key social issues together.

The organisation led a working group of business managers, social workers and Jo Dixon, a researcher at the University's Social Policy Research Unit, to develop the Starting Blocks model. It was highlighted by the Government today as Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, launched the new From Care2Work programme.

Jacqui Tesselment, Manager of York Cares, said: “The transition to independent living and employment can be a hugely difficult one for young people in care who have had disrupted lives and education.

“Starting Blocks helps care leavers experience the world of work and gain valuable skills that will help them secure employment in the future.”

Six care leavers have taken part in Starting Blocks since its launch in August 2008 with one securing a part-time post as she continues her studies, a second going on to a full-time job and a third completing a computing qualification. The scheme will grow to offer 15 placements for care leavers every year.

Young people taking part in the project spend one month on placement and receive a reference at the end. They are supported by volunteers trained as mentors from the host companies who meet the young person beforehand, monitor their progress and conduct an exit interview.

One care leaver who has taken part said: "Starting Blocks has helped me to find out about jobs I would and wouldn't be keen on in the future. I met lots of new people and I got to learn lots of new skills.”

York Cares and its partners in Starting Blocks were invited to address today’s launch at Tate Modern of From Care2Work, the Government’s national employment support programme for care leavers, as an example of good practice in this area. 

Amy Tolliday, City of York Council’s Education, Training and Employment Officer, said: "Starting Blocks has worked in York because we know our goal and are committed to it. We’re also flexible and understand the needs of our client group and can support them in the ‘real’ world.

“We want to ensure that those whose childhood experiences have resulted in disappointing educational achievement benefit from later opportunities to minimise the impact of this.”

John Lister, Finance Director at Aviva and Chairman of York Cares, said: “As one of the founding members of York Cares, we are delighted that this scheme could now go on to make such a difference.

“Our staff were involved in the development stages of this important initiative which is a great way for a major employer like us to make a difference in the community by supporting a group of young people who often face significant disadvantages.”

Katharina Barenthien, General Manager of the York Marriott Hotel, said: “Providing a work experience placement to a care leaver brings benefits to both them, in terms of their development, and the employer who gains access to a pool of talent that is too often overlooked.”


Notes to editors:

  • York Cares is an independent employee-volunteering charity that brings businesses, employees and community organisations together to make a positive impact on the city. More details can be found at
  • The charity is based at the University of York which employs a team of dedicated staff and sits alongside community and business stakeholders on the York Cares Board.
  • Starting Blocks was the winner of the Community Impact Award at the Yorkshire and Humber Business in the Community Cares Awards last month.
  • More information about today’s announcement is available at

Contact details

James Reed
Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 432029