Covenant Stories

More businesses urged to give a ‘Helping Hand’ to care leavers moving into their new home

Businesses across the country are being urged to introduce a life-changing free home improvement scheme for young care leavers.

Signatory: EQUANS
Location: Nationwide

‘Helping Hands’ was launched in 2019 by EQUANS, the new brand for global energy company ENGIE’s regeneration and services-led activities, and the Care Leaver Covenant.

It has already helped to transform the homes of 62 young care leavers across England. Now, in the run-up to National Care Leavers’ Week 2021, more companies are being urged to introduce a similar scheme.

Through the initiative, staff refurbish care leavers’ homes free of charge. Services they provide include painting and decorating; garden clearance; joinery, plastering; plumbing; electrical; floor laying and the use of a van with a driver/crew for moving home.

The ‘Helping Hands’ programme began with a pilot with Leeds City Council in January 2019 now operates in Birmingham, Wakefield, Manchester, Rotherham, London and Norfolk, with plans to roll out the scheme to more areas in the future.

EQUANS started providing the offer as part of their commitment to support care leavers after signing up to the Care Leaver Covenant in October 2018.

The success of the Helping Hand pilot led to EQUANS Social Value Manager Claire Preston, being awarded ‘Sector Based Champion’ by the Department for Education, one of only four in the UK.

Claire Preston, EQUANS Social Value Manager (picture above) said: “Young people who have left care need some practical support to set up home as they have no family network to call on and this is where we step in.

“We employ our own tradespeople, and this is just the right thing to do. A team of our staff – including painters and decorators, joiners, plumbers, plasterers, floor layers, electricians as well as other office and site-based staff – carry out the work.

“They do this as part of the volunteering commitment that EQUANS offers during working hours, to allow staff to give back to the community.

“All our staff who volunteer their time feel proud knowing they are making a big difference to someone’s life.

“Work had to stop for the most part of last year due to the pandemic so to have now completed 62 Helping Hands projects is amazing.

“I would strongly encourage more construction and maintenance companies to offer something similar to Helping Hands. The more businesses that do this, the bigger impact it will have across the country.”

EQUANS staff helped Luke, 22, who bought his own property in Stockport after dreaming of owning his own place for 10 years.

Luke grew up in foster care from the age of 14 to 18, spending time with 30 different carers.

He now works full time for Rolls Royce as a cyber security analyst and is also four years into a six-year mechanical nuclear engineering degree at the University of Manchester.

EQUANS organised a plumber to install Luke’s dishwasher and washing machine; arranged two volunteers at short notice to provide a van with a driver to transport his belongings to his new home and painted his house.

“Helping Hands is gold dust. Moving furniture and painting might sound like a small thing but it’s not – I cannot tell you how much it means,” said Luke.

“Being an adult is scary enough but when you’ve got no family it’s even harder. Helping Hands has made things so much easier for me.

“I can’t get over how generous and how friendly the team were and how much they cared – it wasn’t just a job to them. They really wanted to help.”


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EQUANS staff giving a helping hand

“Young people who have left care need some practical support to set up home as they have no family network to call on and this is where we step in.”

Claire Preston EQUANS Social Value Manager

Care Leaver Covenant

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, delivery partner of the Care Leaver Covenant, said:

“EQUANS was one of the first companies to become a signatory to the Covenant. The work that it is doing to support care leavers is brilliant and this really practical scheme which it has introduced is truly essential.

“Leaving care and setting up home on your own is really difficult without family support. Most care leavers, when they leave care, move into a flat with nothing in it and a scheme like Helping Hands is a lifeline.

“I would strongly encourage other companies in the construction industry to become a signatory and offer similar schemes – by uniting we can transform the lives of care leavers.”

Matthew Gordon

Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra