Bristol children in care get into gear
30 August 2012
An innovative project to support children growing up in care learn to drive, and to assess the impact it has on their lives, has been launched in Bristol. Drive for Opportunity, funded by the AA Charitable Trust, set out to provide driving lessons for four teenagers within the Bristol care system.
An innovative project to support children growing up in care learn to drive, and to assess the impact it has on their lives, has been launched in Bristol.
Drive for Opportunity, funded by the AA Charitable Trust, set out to provide driving lessons for four teenagers within the Bristol care system.
Typically, learning to drive is something young people only get the chance to do with the support of their parents or other immediate family members.
But the freedom driving brings can help young people get a job, travel to work, build an independent life and manage their own social arrangements – vital steps for all young people, but particularly for those in care who may struggle to feel in control over their own lives.
The project is a collaboration between the AA Charitable Trust and AA Driving School, Bristol City Council and Professor David Berridge from the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol.
The AA Trust has funded the tuition, which is being provided by three AA Driving School instructors around Bristol and is also monitoring the progress of each participant. Bristol City Council has been providing additional support to the young people involved, through their care team.
Of the four young men who started learning to drive, one, John Denver, has recently passed his theory test (Friday, June 22nd) and practical driving test (August 24th) with an almost perfect score of just one minor fault.
Derek Finnegan, John’s AA instructor, said: “It has been an interesting project to be involved in and I’ve been fortunate to have John as a pupil. Although it has brought different challenges, it has been really rewarding.
“John was training to be a mechanic when I first began teaching him so having the ability to get himself to jobs was essential to him. I hope that getting his licence will help give him a more secure future and give him more flexibility when it comes to finding work.”
John Denver, who is aged 19, said: “The driving lessons have been brilliant and my instructor Derek is really helpful. He was patient with me to begin with and has taught me really well.
“I’ve always been interested in cars and am training to become a mechanic. To take things further, I need a driving license, so this really opens up new opportunities for me. I’d like to go into the motor trade to become a full time mechanic so I’m really pleased I passed my test.”
Of the three other original participants, one is progressing well and is set to take his theory test soon.
The other two were unable to complete the programme due to changes in their living situations. The project team has now reallocated their funding to another 17-year-old at a residential care home in Bristol.
Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “This project has been a real learning curve for us and has paved the way for us taking part in similar ventures again.
“Learning to drive is a life skill that many young people take for granted. It is difficult to fully appreciate how useful driving is, as teenagers make the transition to full independence. Driving is something most teenagers in care never get to experience and they are often the young people who need the most help to build a secure and independent future.
“Being able to drive opens doors to employment, independence and freedom. Driving gives you the choice to go where you want, when you want. Personal mobility can give individuals who have had a tough upbringing a sense of control.”
Bristol City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Clare Campion-Smith, said: “We welcome this project which supports children in care learning a vital life skill. Many jobs list the ability to drive as an essential requirement and even if they don’t, having the flexibility to travel to work opens up a broader range of opportunities.
“Ensuring young people in care have a positive start in life is something we should all take responsibility for. I am very grateful to the AA Charitable Trust and Bristol University for their support for this project.”
The project will be evaluated upon completion, when Professor Berridge and the AA Charitable Trust will look at the achievements, challenges and longer-term impact the project had.
Professor Berridge said: “I am very pleased to have played a part in bringing about this initiative and thank the AA Charitable Trust for their foresight and generous support.
“Young people growing up in care should have every opportunity to develop their confidence and skills to help prepare them for adulthood and the world of work.
“I hope that other Councils around the country will provide young people in care with similar opportunities.”