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Earlier this month we visited Sheffield Futures to learn more about Project Apollo, a social impact bond that supports young people who have previously been in care to find employment. At the GO lab we are keen to hear from service users and will be doing more work on this in the coming months. In this blog we interview Faye Campbell who coordinates Project Apollo, as well as a young person who is participating in the project. 

Faye Campbell – Project Apollo Coordinator

1.    What is Project Apollo?

Project Apolllo is a three-year programme working with care leavers aged 16-25 to support them into employment, education and training. Data shows that nationally care leavers are three times more likely to be NEET than their peers so PA is a programme which will give care leavers a dedicated transition coach who will offer them long term support to access education, employment and training. 

2.    Project Apollo is a Social Impact Bond, can you tell me a bit more about how it works? 

The Department for Education have overall responsibility for the programme with Sheffield City Council acting as commissioners of the service. Sheffield Futures are delivering the project with funding provided by social investors. Big Issue Invest are the main investor in the programme, having been an investor previously on another social impact bond delivered by Sheffield Futures. So, Project Apollo report to both Sheffield City Council as commissioners and to the investors with updates on outcome achievements, successes, challenges and programme development.  

3.    Do you have to do things differently because it is a Social Impact Bond? For example, how you monitor or report on the project.

Yes definitely, things are done differently. Achievement of both hard and soft outcomes against the targets form the main part of reporting for a SIB programme, to measure the success and challenges of delivery and to monitor rate financial implications for investors in the programme. Both investors and commissioners are interested in hearing the stories behind the work being undertaken by the project to bring to light the difficulties that this disadvantaged group of young people face.

SIBs do create a unique dynamic as you are working with multiple stakeholders. So, as Sheffield Futures we are working with leaving care service, the investors, the commissioners, and of course the young people. 

4.    Do you find the focus on outcomes useful or does it come with challenges?

A focus on outcomes is both challenging and motivational. The evidencing of results means that there is always administration and bureaucracy and sometimes this can detract from the face to face work with young people. However, the challenges of achieving outcomes with the difficult client group has led to the development of innovative practices. We do have to think outside of the box to come up with new ideas of how to engage these young people. The rewards for staff and young people when progress is made gives a great sense of achievement. 

What kind of innovative things? 

Well at the moment we’re in the middle of delivering here at Sheffield Futures an accredited level two customer service qualification to a group of care leavers to actually get them engaged Project Apollo staff are doing the qualification this along the side of them. We have seven members of staff and seven young people working together as colleagues to get through a qualification. 

Are you doing the qualification?  

Yes, I am. 

That’s brilliant! I have never heard of that being done before.  

Yes, we just invented it! 

5.    You are over a year into the project, how is it going so far? 

It’s going very well so far in the first year. The partnership we have with the Leaving Care Service in Sheffield is very strong and we are fortunate that we are co-located in the same building. So yes, they greatly value our service and we value their support. There have been some really positive results with care leavers already, and in some cases, quite life changing. However, there are real difficulties around the recruitment and engagement of these young people who are very difficult to reach. They lead very chaotic lives, they have got many issues. They live independently so it can be very difficult to engage them in the programme. We’ve also found that sustaining these young people in employment is proving a huge challenge. Young people who have not had structure in their lives from often a very early age, to get them to sustain being in a very structured environment is difficult. 

What is clear a year into this project is that this kind of specialist support is vital for care leavers. It was previously done by leaving care personal advisors who have too many other things around the young person to deal with, so Sheffield City Council is thinking in terms of how this work can be continued. So, yeah I think this is a real benefit of a SIB model that it does promote that thinking about how can we carry on this kind of work. 


Young person – Project Apollo service user  

1.    How long have you been involved in Project Apollo? What have you done with them?

It will be around 4-6 months, not been too long. Everything has gone very quickly. So, when I first met them I was very sceptical in terms of what they could do for me, what can I get out of this? And then I heard the list of benefits that I could get and I thought, I can give this a go. And within a few weeks I had my own cv, I was getting asked to go to job interviews and one of the main things was that I needed a job, something to occupy my time. And within a month or two I was there, going through a trial period at a placement. 

2.    What has been the best thing about being part of it?

Meeting people and getting a job. I’ve now got a job that I absolutely love, with some fantastic people. I wouldn’t have got it without them so it’s been a great help. 

So how did they help you get a job?

Yeah, they helped me get a CV that I could use. They got in touch with people who were looking for apprenticeships that were care leavers. The job I now have happened to be available and I had an interview for it and they assisted me through that, got me a two-week trial placement with them and then at the end of that I got offered a job full time. 

Amazing, well done. 

3.    What has been the hardest thing about being part of it? 

Knowing what I want next. When you have so much available to you you end up actually wondering what you want to do next. What do you prioritise. 

Have you figured that out? 

No, I’m still trying to figure that out. 

I don’t think any of us have figured that out [laughter]

 I think if you do figure it out you deserve a prize.

4.    Do you think Project Apollo has made an impact on your life? If so, how?

Definitely. It has helped me meet some fantastic people. It has got me this job. I’ve ended up becoming more involved with people my age through Sheffield care leavers union. They do fantastic events for us. Then I have just been able to meet so many different people. It’s fantastic. 

5.    What are your aspirations for the future? This could be related to your career or your life in general  

So, at the moment I am doing this apprenticeship and it’s with the independent visitors scheme. They provide a volunteer for people in care and they do care leavers now as well. They get someone a month to come out and take them on a fun activity, and hopefully in the next year I’ll get to help improve that whole scheme, and make it more efficient. They beyond that I’ve got Sheffield Care Leavers union. I might take more of a role in that. There’s the independent visitors scheme, the whole team that I am working with, I could become more active within that team. 

When I was still in school I did a taster day at uni for physics. I really wanted to go to uni to do chemistry. So maybe some point in the future I might actually complete that and go to uni. Chemistry has always been a passion of mine. Science was something that always fascinated me. 

Can you tell me about the Sheffield Care Leavers Union?

Yeah, so it’s a group that meet every fortnight and it’s a follow on to the Children in Care council so they alternate on Thursdays. If you are between the ages of 18 and 25 you can come to this group and it’s all about finding out any struggles that people may be having, working out ways to combat them, finding out what they actually want, what they get from the council, and any ways to improve their lives. 

Thanks so much to Faye, the young person involved and Project Apollo for letting us come and visit.