A charity which helps young Cumbrians leaving care has received a £10,000 boost.
The Stepladder of Achievement Programme gives teenagers the chance to earn up to £1,500 in a savings account by completing an online course in financial and life skills, ready for when they leave care aged 18.
Carlisle based building society The Cumberland has chosen the initiative as the latest recipient of one of its charitable grants.
“I can’t even describe how good the programme was, and also the people within Cumbria Youth Alliance who helped me with it,” says one 19-year-old from West Cumbria who left care last year.
“If I hadn’t done the Stepladder programme I genuinely don’t know where I would be. The whole aim is to make you more employable and confident in your abilities.”
She now has a job and says: “It was all good information that I wouldn’t have got elsewhere. The section on ‘making my money work’ was very helpful for me, moving to living independently.
“It was a really good feeling to complete the steps and get the money. It is like a security blanket.”
She added: “I think growing up is generally scary but if you don’t have that family support system behind you it is even more difficult.
“To be a young person moving out of care is a really scary first step – when you turn 18 a lot of the support you have had disappears.”
She hopes that others will follow The Cumberland building society and support The Stepladder of Achievement Programme. “It would be nice to see a lot more businesses getting involved and helping the scheme to grow,” she said.
The Stepladder of Achievement Programme is run by the charity The Share Foundation, and young people receive a sum of money for each step of the course they complete, finishing with the savings in an account.
Kathryn Caswell, from The Share Foundation, says: “We support young people in care and help them to better equip themselves for when they leave care which is a very vulnerable time for them.
“The Stepladder of Achievement Programme includes learning about money and numbers, and having a bank account and mortgages. The step on how to manage your money is Open University accredited.”
The Stepladder of Achievement Programme aims to help combat the disadvantage faced by young people in care. Forty per cent of 19-year-olds who have been in care are not in education, employment or training compared to 13 per cent of the general population.
The Cumberland will give £10,000 to The Share Foundation for The Stepladder of Achievement Programme, granted over two years from its new Community Fund.
Becky Towns, CSR and communications executive with The Cumberland, said: “Making your own way in the world is challenging for young people but those leaving the care system need extra support.
“The Stepladder of Achievement Programme is providing vital help for these young Cumbrians and we are very pleased to be able to help them.
“Our Community Fund was set up to make donations over several years, helping charities to be more sustainable and we hope this contribution will help more young people to take part in The Stepladder of Achievement Programme.”
The Stepladder of Achievement Programme was launched in Cumbria two years ago and 41 young people registered to take part. Eleven have completed the course and received £1,500 in their Junior ISAs and another 21 are waiting to register as funding becomes available for them.
The Share Foundation runs the Junior ISA and Child Trust Fund for the Department for Education and works in partnership with Cumbria Youth Alliance, Cumbria County Council and local funders.