John Lewis Partnership launches national effort to help care-experienced people into work

Wednesday 19 October 2022
Young girl looking into camera

  • Multi-year plan to support young people from care backgrounds who are among the most disadvantaged in society.
  • Establishing the Building Happier Futures programme to bring more young people who are care experienced into the Partnership - building on early pilots in Essex, London, Birmingham and Manchester.
  • National charity partnerships with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland to support young people moving from the care system to independent living.

The John Lewis Partnership is today announcing a new plan to support young people leaving the care system - a community too often overlooked by employers - to find meaningful jobs.

This forms part of the Partnership’s long term ambition to become the employer of choice for young people who are care experienced, and is even more important in a cost of living crisis and with so many businesses facing recruitment challenges.

There are over 108,000 children in care across the UK today - in local authority care or foster homes1 and tens of thousands more have spent some time in care1. Many are often moved between accommodation at late notice, and it’s not uncommon for these young people to move 20 or 30 times before they’re 18.

Lack of opportunity means that young people who grow up in care are three times less likely to be in education, employment or training by the time they reach 19 than their peers. Young people who’ve been in care are a third more likely to be made homeless than to go to university - with 6% of ‘care leavers’2 supported to go onto further education, compared to over a third of their peers3.

We have been impressed by Timpsons and their employment of ex-offenders and we want to have the same impact through time with care experienced young people.

For the last eighteen months we have been working with Councils and charities in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Nottingham and Essex to provide training and employment in our John Lewis and Waitrose stores to care experienced young people4. It is early days and we are learning lessons, but we want to do more.

New ‘Building Happier Futures’ Employment Programme

We’re therefore creating a ‘Building Happier Futures’ employment programme, which will see us employing more care experienced people in more parts of the country. We’re keen to work with small businesses, charities and community organisations that want to hire or further the career of someone who is care experienced.

In time we would like to launch dedicated apprenticeships for care leavers and offer financial support for young people who have been in care to pursue further education5.

Supporting initiatives

We have established an Advisory Group of experts in the field5 - many of whom are themselves care experienced - to ensure we are addressing the real needs of this community.

We have formed new partnerships with two charities Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland, supporting their fundraising efforts.

Over time we will support projects from organisations within the care sector that are working to build happier futures for care experienced people, helping to prepare them for employment.

Support for Government action

We support the calls being made by care experienced people for Government action and investment to improve the life chances of this group. Specifically:

  • No child or young person should be placed in unsafe, unregulated or care-less accommodation, and that all children - including 16 and 17 year olds - should receive care where they live.
  • All young people from care have a right to a continuous caring presence, regardless of age or postcode - removing the cliff edge that happens in, or even before adulthood.
  • A portion of the significant amount in unspent apprenticeship levy is used to provide targeted support for those leaving care to be able to afford to pursue further education while also being able to financially make ends meet.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Equality Summit today (18 October), Sharon White, John Lewis Partnership Chairman, will say: “Children and young people whose childhoods were spent in care face profound challenges. Young people who are care experienced are more likely to be made homeless than to go to university.

“Thousands of young people with potential are being overlooked in the national conversation and that urgently needs to change. The John Lewis Partnership from its very foundations has always had a strong social purpose - providing healthcare before the NHS.

We want over time to become the employer of choice for young people leaving the care system. We know they make fantastic Partners (employees) and we can in turn provide the opportunity for meaningful work and the chance to progress.

“We would love to join forces with other businesses wishing to recruit so we can help more young people .”

Melanie Armstrong, CEO at Action for Children, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the John Lewis Partnership, a much-loved British brand on this groundbreaking initiative to support children in care and care experienced young people.

"At Action for Children, we want to give every child across the UK the best start in life, especially those whose lives and schooling have been disrupted by abuse, neglect and family breakdown. We work with at least 40,000 children and young people in, or with experience of, the social care system every year, and we know the challenges and inequalities they face.

"We believe this partnership will enable us to support and empower more children and young people as they make the transition from care to into the adult world."

See the notes to editors for additional quotes.


Notes to Editor:

References/additional info:

  1. Source: Become
  2. Source: DfE, 2019/20
  3. Source: DfE definition: Care leavers now aged 19-21 years looked after for a total of at least 13 weeks after their 14th birthday including some time after their 16th birthday.
  4. To date, we’ve launched over 10 additional programmes in key areas across the UK to give young people from care backgrounds access to things like employability training and work experience opportunities. We aim to roll out our programme to at least another 25 pilots next year. As we expand, our plan is also to work with more councils across more areas around the UK. Seventeen Partners have been recruited through our pilots already and we are currently interviewing a further fourteen to join as Partners in our business.
  5. Chaired by Sharon White and our Executive Director for People, Lisa Cherry. This will predominantly include people with care experience themselves, including Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC journalist; and the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza DBE whose independent role is to represent the needs of children in care and care leavers.

Additional quotes:

Melanie Armstrong, CEO at Action for Children, continues: “I am also delighted to be working with the John Lewis Partnership on the Building Happier Futures Advisory Group to start a national conversation on improving the lives of those in care and the life chances of those leaving care into adulthood and work.

With our collective expertise and passion, I am confident that we will be able to make a step change in the way care experienced young people are supported.”

Louise Hunter, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the John Lewis Partnership will use its tremendous presence and platform, to make a real difference to care experienced people. We know that all children and young people need support, love and nurture in order to thrive, but for our children and young people with experience of care, those elements might not always have been present. Who Cares? Scotland is the only national, membership organisation for people who have experienced the care system. Our vision is a lifetime of equality, respect and love and at the heart of our work are the rights of care experienced people, and the power of their voices to bring about positive change. We provide advocacy as well as a range of opportunities for care experienced people to come together for friendship, connection and to feel a powerful sense of belonging.

“I am also honoured to be a part of the Building Better Futures Advisory Group. Every child in the UK should feel equal, loved and respected and we know that, so often, this isn’t the reality for Care Experienced people. There is only so much we can do within our own organisations to demand the right to better lives for Care Experienced children and young people. This advisory group brings together significant expertise, huge potential and, most importantly, real commitment work together to make a difference.”

Rebekah Pierre, Author and Campaigner, said: “The majority of businesses and organisations do not have care-experience on their radar, despite the growing number of both care leavers and children in care, and the unique challenges our community faces. I am pleased that the John Lewis Partnership is taking meaningful action to redress the deep social inequalities faced by our community, and hope that this work will be an example to other businesses to step up, speak out, and act on their social responsibility.”

Company information:

About the John Lewis Partnership
The John Lewis Partnership owns and operates two of Britain's best-loved retail brands - John Lewis and Waitrose. Started as a radical experiment over a century ago, the Partnership is now the largest employee-owned business in the UK, with over 80,000 employees who are all Partners in the business. The Partnership is purpose-driven, existing to create a fairer and more sustainable future for our Partners, customers, suppliers and communities. Our Purpose not only inspires our principles, drives our decisions and acts as our guide to be a force for good, it steers us to do things differently and better - all in service of creating a happier world for everyone and everything we touch.

About Action for Children
Action for Children protects and supports vulnerable children and young people by providing practical and emotional care and support, ensuring their voices are heard and campaigning to bring lasting improvements to their lives. With 447 services across the UK, in schools and online, in 2021/22 we helped 671,275 children, young people and families.

About Who Cares? Scotland
Who Cares? Scotland was established in 1978 and is Scotland’s only national independent membership organisation for Care Experienced people. Its strategic vision is to secure a lifetime of equality, respect and love for Care Experienced people in Scotland. Find out more about Who Cares? Scotland by visiting