A man who has turned his life around after finding himself homeless has championed a scheme that helped him get there.
At the age of 16 Joseph Shaw was diagnosed with a mental illness and his relationships with family members were strained.
The teenager left the familiarity of the care system behind at 18 and, tragically, found himself on the streets just six months later after falling into rent arrears.
But Wigan Council came to the rescue, helping young Joe to get his name on the housing register as a priority resident.
But before he could be housed in Hindley, he drifted from couch to couch and slept rough on the streets, sometimes in the most inhospitable weather.
The local authority’s care leavers’ team also offered the young man an opportunity to gain experience in the workplace through the Confident Futures programme.
This offers young people who grew up in the care system the chance to try out different work placements and to develop professional and transferable skills.
Joe completed his placement with the council, gaining experience in property maintenance, which in turn led to his getting onto an apprenticeship scheme.
Now aged 20, Joe works full time in the council tax team at the town hall and has nothing but positive things to say about the programme which brought him back from the brink.
He said: “It really has changed my life.
“The programme has given me the confidence, resilience and the skills to apply for opportunities I will benefit from.
“The council has given me a chance. The organisation’s attitude towards young people is great as they understand we have new ideas and there is a real drive to get young people involved.
“One of my ideas has even been implemented at work, which makes me feel really valued here.
“The level of support I’ve received from colleagues has been tremendous, especially after the recent passing of my brother, Chris, who also had his own troubles and had found himself on the streets.
“I’m now in touch with my dad and feel like because of the opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve had the confidence to build these relationships again.”
Joe will also benefit from the council’s new motion to waive council tax for care leavers up until the age of 21.
Any young care leavers who are interested in getting involved in future Confident Futures programmes should email Wigan Council’s aspiring futures team, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council chief executive Donna Hall said: “We want our residents to be ambitious and successful and we’re committed to investing resources into our young people.
“Joe has faced many obstacles in his life from a young age and to see what he has achieved and how he has turned this into a positive is really inspiring. He is a fantastic member of staff and I’m really proud of him.
“The Confident Futures programme offers young care leavers lots of support to help them succeed in whatever job role they choose to go into and to help them live well independently. We will continue to offer support to help care-leavers stay on track as they start to get jobs and move into their own accommodation.”