As an industry leader in energy, services and regeneration, ENGIE takes all aspects of responsible business and social value seriously. Through our work across the UK, we aim to improve lives through better working and living environments, as well as leaving a lasting legacy in the communities we serve.
In October 2018, we signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant, part of the Government’s ‘Keep on Caring’ strategy, which aims to tackle the disadvantages that young people face when leaving care. The vision of the Covenant is to enrich the support available for care leavers, with organisations becoming signatories and offering tangible opportunities – such as employment, education, and training – to help young people live independently after leaving care.
Getting the pilot right
We were one of the first companies to become a signatory, offering work placements, mentoring and apprenticeships to care leavers – something that the team felt was vital after understanding the significant gap between the educational and employment achievements of care leavers, compared to those not in the care system.
We also recognised a need to go further. Care leavers require a strong support system, and we really wanted to embed our corporate responsibility by providing the best possible outcome we could. Early meetings explored other avenues where we could improve the standard of living for these young people, while also supporting our clients in meeting the needs of their communities.
We launched a pilot scheme in 2019, in partnership with Leeds City Council and the Covenant, to offer practical support to care leavers moving into their own home for the first time through decorating, home maintenance, DIY and garden clearance.
The first DIY project was hugely rewarding. The young person moving into the property felt she didn’t have the resources to make it liveable, so a team of our staff – including painters and decorators, scaffolders and cleaners – carried out the work required as part of the volunteering commitments that our company offers to employees during working hours, to allow staff to give back to the community. The end result was great – the team had turned the flat into a real home and everyone involved felt proud knowing the difference it was going to make to someone’s life.
We had envisaged we would be able to carry out one of these refurbishments each month, but by the end of 2019 our teams had completed 19 DIY projects at care leavers’ homes in Leeds alone.
We have also introduced other local authorities across the country to the pilot project, which has enabled us to start rolling it out in other areas.
For example, in Wembley, north west London, we helped a care leaver by transforming his outside space; putting up a bench and adding new plants to his patio area, as well installing blackout blinds in his bedroom, making a huge difference to his mental and physical wellbeing.
Being creative with tenders
Social Enterprise UK suggests 82% of local councils believe that social value drives higher levels of growth, but we understand that funding remains a challenge in a financially-constrained environment, which is why it was a particular highlight for us to see more local authorities on board to trial the Toolkit, having attended the launch in March.
The Toolkit is designed to assist local authorities in adopting a ‘whole council’ approach, so it’s not just the responsibility of children’s services. By organisations writing social value objectives specifically linked to care leavers into their procurement processes, the core outcomes of the Covenant are secured.
We are pleased to see more tenders asking for examples of how we’ve already supported care leavers, and we’re also including in bids new ways we can further enhance our offering to give care leavers more opportunities to thrive, including cooking workshops and supply chain investment.
So far, we have positively changed more than 40 care leavers’ lives, most recently with the refurbishment of a spare bedroom at a home in Cheshire for a couple with a newborn baby, as well as donating and installing brand new furniture.
We hope that this number will increase tenfold in the coming years, especially as more local authorities pledge to adopt the Toolkit.
Claire Preston is ENGIE’s social value manager
For further information on the Social Value Toolkit, visit: https://mycovenant.org.uk/values-based-procurement/