Building Happier Futures for Care-Experienced People

We believe that every child and young person should have a fair start in life. But this isn’t the case for many of the 108,000 young people growing up in the UK’s care system. We have been struck by the unfairness faced by many children and young people whose childhoods were spent in care, who don’t have the safety net of family to call on.


At the John Lewis Partnership we are driven by our purpose to work in partnership for a happier world. As co-owners, we want to use our position as an employer and retailer to do what we can to harness the talent and improve the lives of children who have grown up in care. 


That’s why we have made long term commitments to be there for our young people who are care experienced, supporting them through those crucial life moments. 


Many children and care-experienced people don’t have the safety net of family support


There are 108,000 children and young people living in care in the UK. Some of our brightest and best national talent are care-experienced. But too many children and young people growing up in care have great potential which is being overlooked. They may not have access to the same opportunities as those who can call on family for help. If you’ve been in care, you are more likely to be made homeless than go to university - stark evidence of the challenges facing this community.

  • Less than a quarter (22%) of young people who are care-experienced are in education, training or employment, compared to nearly two thirds (57%) of their peers. Employers are missing out on the potential of thousands of young people who leave the care system every year. 
  • 6% of young people who’ve been in care go on to further education
  • £6,000 Care Experience Pay Gap: Someone who is care experienced earns on average less than their peers who haven’t grown up in care
  • 1/3 of people who’ve been in care will experience homelessness at some point in their lives.

1 Source: Become (DfE, March 2021)

2 Source: DfE, Nov 2022

Our Plan for Change

We believe that our young people deserve better. 


The John Lewis Partnership was founded on the belief that when you raise everyone up and give them access to the same opportunities and living standards, society thrives and so does business.


We will do what we can to drive change and unlock the potential of our children and young people who have been in care. This is why we have a long term commitment to:


1. Be the employer of choice for young people who are care experienced. We want to support young people leaving the care system into meaningful long-term employment at the John Lewis Partnership or with other employers.

2. Support children in care to equip them for happier futures through partnerships with the voluntary and charity sectors.

3. Raise awareness of the inequalities faced by those who are care experienced, empowering them to tell their own stories in their own words.

The Building Happier Futures employment programme


Our Building Happier Futures employment programme is an ongoing scheme to identify and recruit talented young people who’ve experienced care to become Partners in our business. We have developed a supported employment approach in partnership with local authorities and charities, including Drive Forward and the Rees Foundation.  Including work experience, guidance on CV writing and interview skills, as well as a guaranteed interview, this approach gives young people who are care experienced an opportunity to truly explore our business and start a meaningful career. 


We are still learning, adapting and perfecting this approach, and it is important to note that not all of our Partnership locations are currently offering the programme, but we are working towards expanding our reach. We are currently working within London, Birmingham, Manchester, Essex and Nottingham with an ambition to triple the number of locations offering the Building Happier Futures employment programme throughout 2023 and 2024.

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 education.


Find out more on our jobs website.

 “Over 10,000 young people each year transition from being ‘in care’ to being a ‘care leaver’. Typically, they can lack the appropriate resources to gain employment, having limited networks to offer practical and emotional guidance into the world of work.

The fact they come into care, through no fault of their own, should not hinder their ability to succeed in life. John Lewis’ commitment to ‘do more to empower care leavers to thrive’ by offering employment provides a genuine opportunity for all to reach their potential.  

Rees Foundation offer a lifelong support network for care leavers of any age after they have left the care system. We were very keen to support the John Lewis Partnership, who have been offering vacancies to care leavers in different disciplines across multiple stores. From inviting them to an open day to learn about the Partnership, to being given a tour of the relevant store and then a day’s work experience with a guaranteed interview, the care leavers who engaged with the program found employment and more importantly alongside that, a sense of belonging and purpose.

We are really pleased that the John Lewis Partnership ‘is a welcoming place’  for everyone and they see the importance of inclusion, how nurturing and supporting individuals can have such a significant impact on the lives of those they help. We all need a step up from time to time, someone to show us they care and help us along the way.

The Building Happier Futures programme has, in our opinion, achieved that goal and offered a group of care leavers a chance to flourish. It truly is life changing!” - Claire Banner, The Rees Foundation - Building Happier Futures programme partner


Becoming the go to employer


We have a long term ambition to become the go-to employer for young people who are care experienced. Our work in this area includes:

  • Establishing a new internal peer support network for Partners (employees) who are care experienced
  • A comprehensive package of health and wellbeing support (which we offer to all of our Partners), including access to free talking therapies and financial assistance.

Working with other employers


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.


We will also fund apprenticeship course costs to help other employers that want to recruit care-experienced people. If your organisation would like to offer an apprenticeship to someone from care, please get in touch by emailing


We are partnering with Action for Children to develop UK-wide bespoke employability support for young people who’ve experienced care. Our partnership will ensure they have the tools and confidence to build their experience and careers. Care experienced young people will participate in developing this support which has the potential to impact hundreds of young people across the UK.

The Building Happier Futures charity partnership


We have a long term partnership with Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland to provide targeted support to children and young people who have experienced care.


In addition to providing employability support across the UK, the funds will support Action for Children to provide wraparound placement support to help extremely vulnerable children and young people who are being fostered where their placements are at risk of breaking down. Action for Children provides intensive support to help children and their foster families work through the issues they are experiencing and access the support they need. This will help keep children in supportive foster families over the Christmas period and beyond. To ensure young people’s safe journey into adulthood, we will also be funding specialised support from Action for Children Transition Workers who work directly with children in care prior, during, and following their transition into independent living.


We will also establish a Building Happier Futures fund to support projects from organisations that are working to build happier futures for children in care and those who are care experienced. 


We are already supporting the work of many brilliant charities and community groups who are working to make a difference for children and care-experienced people.

Hear from Imran Hussain, Director of Policy & Campaigns at Action for Children about the work that they do and the impact the Building Happier Futures programme will have.


Spotlight on partnership with Action for Children: funding Transition Workers to support young people moving from care to independent living


Following difficult and disrupted childhoods, many care experienced young people find themselves thrust into the adult world before they are ready. There can be limited support available for this transition from care into independent living. This period can be particularly challenging as many young people often face a life of total independence with no one to turn to. 


The John Lewis Partnership’s fundraising partnership with Action for Children will allow the charity to employ provide specialised support from Transition Workers to support children and young people in foster care prior, during, and following their transition into independent living. 


These Transition Workers make a vital difference to the lives of young people who are in desperate need of guidance and care during this challenging time. Their support includes providing one-to-one practical and emotional support to help build emotional resilience and aspirations, helping young people into secure safe and suitable accommodation, working with them to identify suitable training, employment or education opportunities, and teaching basic living skills to help them to live independently and access all of the support they are entitled to. Transition Workers also work with foster parents and carers to help them to be better equipped to support the transition into independent living for the young person in their care.


Lucy * is an Action for Children Transition Worker who supports young people in residential care.  Lucy said:  “I worked with Paul* as he prepared for life beyond residential care.  It was a really big step for him because he didn’t feel quite ready to leave care and felt anxious about living independently. We worked really closely over six months and put in a plan in place to help him cope with tasks such as washing, cooking and personal hygiene.  We also worked with Paul’s social worker to identify other areas of support for social and emotional regulation. Over this time, I saw his confidence grow and his worries lessen as we gave him the practical and emotional support he needed as he transitioned from residential care.  If this type of support wasn’t in place, he would have become extremely socially isolated, with no one to turn to. By giving him these tools, we helped to set him up for a successful future.” 

(*Names and image have been changed to protect anonymity)


Spotlight on partnership with Who Cares? Scotland: spaces for fun, friendship and connection

Who Cares? Scotland is an advocacy and campaigning organization for care experienced people in Scotland. It is also the only national membership organisation for care experienced people in the UK. Who Cares? Scotland’s vision is a lifetime of equality, respect and love for all care experienced people.


Who Cares? Scotland will use the support from the John Lewis Partnership to help bring care experienced children and young people together for fun, friendship and connection - including days out, camping trips, days out to the seaside and access to attractions. The opportunities help care experienced children to meet other children and young people with experience of care, just like them, helping them to form friendships and feel a strong sense of belonging.


Alana, aged 23 said: “Who Cares? Scotland came into my life at my most difficult point and my first interaction was at a group called ‘Care To Create’. I was never allowed to express my creative side before and this group welcomed and encouraged me in a way that I was able to discover myself in that safe space. This has changed my life and how I process significant life events. At my first group we made our own jewellery and I made a ring with the engraving ‘be you’ inside. No matter how alone I feel, because Who Cares? Scotland facilitated this, I know I belong somewhere and I don’t have to change or adapt who I am. The great thing about our groups is that they are inclusive, trauma informed and they genuinely care about each and every person that comes in, that’s what makes Who Cares? Scotland special.”

Helping children in Solihull to dream and aspire with Little Chicks Life Lessons


Little Bird was founded by author Alison Delaney, who was adopted at three months old. Alison says: “I was loved and encouraged to dream. To know I could become whatever I wanted to be if I had enough belief in myself and the world around me.”


Realising this was a privilege that not every child has, Alison developed Little Chicks Life Lessons to support other children that didn’t have the same opportunities. The programme is dedicated to allowing children to explore and develop their dreams and aspirations, to support them to identify the unique and special qualities they possess to be the best they can be, and to increase the understanding of saving and healthy financial habits.


We are working with Little Bird to fund Little Chicks Life Lessons workshops for nearly 700 primary school students in the Solihull area. Find out more here.


Who We Are Working With


Empowering our care experienced community to tell their own stories in their own words


We are already supporting a number of projects, including Free Loaves on Fridays, an anthology from young people in care telling their story in their own words. 


We will also use our platforms as a space for care experienced people to tell their stories.

The Building Happier Futures Advisory Group


We can’t do this alone and have forged a new alliance through our Building Happier Futures Advisory Group (over half of whom have lived experience) to guide our work. 


The Advisory Group will:

  • Ensure that the voice of those with lived experience is at the heart of our work
  • Advise on the development of the John Lewis Partnership’s Building Happier Futures programme, including our long term commitments and strategic intent
  • Regularly review progress against our commitments, be a critical friend and advise the John Lewis Partnership on delivery against its objectives
  • Be ambassadors for the wider social change we are collectively trying to achieve.



Rebekah Pierre
Care Experienced author and campaigner

Dame Rachel de Souza
Children's Commissioner for England

Alison Delaney
Founder - Little Bird

Linda Davidson
Global Transformation Program Director - Choreograph

Ashley John-Baptiste
BBC News presenter

Katharine Sacks-Jones
Chief Executive - Become

Louise Hunter
Chief Executive, Who Cares Scotland

Mark Riddell MBE
National Advisor to Government on Care Leavers

Tim Blackman
Vice Chancellor at the Open University

Melanie Armstrong
Chief Executive - Action for Children

Help and Support

If you’ve been in care and are struggling, you are not on your own. If you need to talk to someone who can help, please get in touch with:


Become offers a range of support, from ongoing coaching, helping in stressful situations, to providing a friendly space to meet other care-experienced young people. 

Become Care Advice line: 0800 023 2033

Visit to find out more

Action for Children

Action for Children provide a range of local support. To find out more about what support is available in your area please visit

Drive Forward Foundation

Drive Forward offers a range of support if you’ve been in care and are taking your first step into the world of work, from one-to-one support to mentoring and work placements.



The Who Cares? Scotland Helpline is for Care Experienced people across Scotland. We offer connection, a listening ear, lifelong advocacy and support and signposting around the following: finances, benefits, housing, health, employment, education and rights. The helpline is open Monday-Friday 12-4pm.

Contact on 0330 107 7540 or email

Visit for more information

Get Involved

If you’d like to support a young person who is care experienced, there are lots of ways to get involved:


Further Reading