Helping young people on their journey

Lanarkshire Youth Opportunities
13 February 2024

To independence and employment: Barnardo’s Scotland

Elaine Gibb

Key learnings:

  • Some young people face more challenges entering the jobs market.
  • In North Lanarkshire, more young people are at risk of unemployment.
  • Tailored employability support can help young people embark on more sustainable career paths .
  • Building relationships between workers and young people can make a cruicial difference.

One of our priorities for our Youth Opportunities strand is employability – especially for young people furthest from the job market. Eric Stallard of Barnardo’s shares his approach to supporting young people in North Lanarkshire.

Photo by Scott Richmond

Supporting young people to achieve their goals and overcome the barriers in their way is more of a vocation than a job for Eric Stallard. Eric is part of a team that wraps support around young people facing homelessness so they can make a strong start in their own home. His role focuses on helping them develop their skills and talents and build their confidence to take these forward –creating the foundations for future employment and careers.

Eric works for national charity, Barnardo’s, delivering its Access to Opportunities employability support programme in North Lanarkshire, where William Grant & Sons has two operational sites.

“Many young people we meet don’t have strong family or social support networks to rely on and past circumstances have often gotten in the way of them finishing school or gaining qualifications,” he explains.

“More recently I also see isolation and money worries becoming bigger issues than they used to be, which has an impact on their mental health, too.”

Access to Opportunities works with young people aged 16 to 26, aiming to help them live independently in rented accommodation. It is designed from the start to be very flexible, enabling each young person to map out and progress along a pathway to where they want to be.

To begin with, Eric meets young people wherever they are comfortable and spends a lot of time just listening. He helps them create step-by-step plans, tailored to their life goals and interests. Then he aims to be alongside them as they take each step – encouraging them, pushing them when needed, and helping them get back on track if things don’t go to plan.

With a previous career spanning a variety of youth work and support roles, he gets frustrated when he encounters target-based programmes which don’t consider the individual, their wider life and the journey both behind and ahead of them. He explains the principle that underpins his approach.

Self-belief is low and most don’t think their dreams are achievable; but it is important to give young people the time, space and encouragement they need to shine.” Eric explains.

A missing support network

Photo by Scott Richmond

Becoming the support network that people at risk of homelessness often lack is what makes a difference in helping them move forward.

The impact is clear from Eric’s stories of young people’s success – from those taking their first small, but significant steps towards employment, such as volunteering, to those progressing as successful young professionals in exciting new careers.


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