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Charity starts with a home: Valpak becomes a corporate partner for the Coventry House Project
Young people in care in the UK leave their care homes between the ages of 16 and 18, without the financial and emotional support of family. Reconomy Group company Valpak is supporting 16 and 17-year-old care leavers with work advice and donations to help them get started.
The Coventry House Project, which launched in 2021, is one of 16 projects across England and Scotland that make up the wider National House Project. The national scheme is working with 380 young people and has helped 240 young people make the transition to living in wider society.
The first cohort of 11 Coventry care leavers, who identified themselves as House Project Sunrise, have completed the AQA (Applied General, Technical and Vocational Qualifications) approved House Project Programme. They have learnt about cooking, money, bills, personal safety and have also found out how to shop smartly. Valpak, as a corporate partner, has invited the young people into the Valpak offices to learn about work; they are given opportunities for work experience, and Valpak also bought House Project Sunrise hoodies and vouchers as Christmas presents.
The latest financial contribution from Valpak will be used to improve the Hub at the Coventry House Project. This will be an inviting, informal space with comfortable sofas, which all the young people can use to meet up, gain support and continue to be a family, once they are all in their own homes.
“The beauty of the relationship is that we are here if they need anything, it is not forced,” says Ben Richardson, Director of Procurement at Valpak. “We have found the young people are really engaged in the process. They have to apply to be part of the Coventry House Project and this first cohort are a really tightknit group. It has been brilliant seeing how they develop, and the positive experiences they have been having.”
In March, the Coventry House Project group travelled to meet others at The National House Project and Care Leavers National Movement (CLNM) conference in Manchester.
Valpak staff members went with them – representing Reconomy, Valpak’s parent company, which runs a Social Value Programme and supports the Wolverhampton House Project. The conference brought together stories from around the UK, providing updates on The National House Project journey and was inspiring for all involved.
The Coventry House Project group has also met with the charity Suited & Booted, which supports people who need smart clothes for interview. As well as sartorial support, the charity gives valuable advice and interview training. A trip to London is also a great opportunity for a new experience and good bonding for the group.
Valpak sits on the steering group for the Coventry House Project, along with other organisations working with the project, such as Coventry City Council and housing organisations. As well as financial assistance, Valpak has been able to offer advice on how to set up a post-project review for the first cohort, and to present a blueprint of how corporate companies can work with The National House Project.
So far, the response has been enthusiastic. “Young people are super-proud to be recognised by Valpak. They are excited for the support they will receive for their education, employment and training prospects through Valpak,” said Nazmean Nessa, House Project Lead, House Project Coventry.
Richardson concluded: “Leaving care is a daunting prospect, and the young people need all the support available. By documenting how the partnership works and what has been learnt so far, we can build a positive experience for all.”
One of the young people who is part of the Coventry House Project, said: “We are so proud to be recognised by Valpak and to be believed in by them. Although we are excited about moving into our own place, we are also scared. Being supported by Valpak to go to a residential has helped us form strong bonds and relationships with one another. We will continue to support each other when we are in our own places. We will also come back to the base that we are decorating with the support of Valpak’s donation. The base feels like our own space where we feel safe.”
Mark Warr, CEO of The National House Project, added: “The National House Project approach focuses on providing skills, knowledge and confidence so that young people leave care in a planned and supported way. The involvement of businesses such as Valpak and Reconomy adds a rich stream of support and opportunity into education, training and employment. This makes the young people feel energised that people want to invest in them and their futures.”
Councillor Patricia Seaman, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Coventry City Council, said: “The House Project is such a wonderful idea and it really has been a great success. The young people have worked very hard and they have had great support from partners such as Valpak. The corporate help really has been invaluable and it has allowed our young people to build skills and prepare for the next stage of their lives. We look forward to seeing the project go from strength to strength and to continuing our work with Valpak.”