There are many care leavers who, with the right support and guidance from learning providers and social services staff, gain a degree. The latest in our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week is an account of how a care leaver has been supported to learn at Winchester University.
When I was applying to universities some of them asked for additional references to support my application. I am a member of the Surrey County Council Care Council, and the lead staff member quickly provided me with a reference which helped me to secure my place. Additionally, my personal advisor helped me to plan for the university move by telling me about what I was entitled to financially. This included a weekly allowance to pay for my accommodation and another to pay for my living costs. She helped me to contact the university finance team and arrange for a weekly standing order of my accommodation allowance to be set up and paid directly from my account to the university. Accommodation fees are normally paid in three termly instalments but the university was very helpful and supportive in setting this up. My personal advisor also told me that I would receive a bursary through three instalments during the year. She told me the dates that I would receive this money so I could include them in my budgeting plan and so keep on top of my finances.
My first week of university
When I picked up my keys to move in to university halls I was given an unexpected one-off credit to a catering card for use in all of the university cafes and restaurants. This relieved a bit of the pressure of cooking my own meals while I settled in. During the first week of freshers, a member of student services who worked specially with care leavers invited me to meet up for a chat. When I met her, she explained the support the university offered and also told me that I could contact her with any problems I might have or whenever I fancied a chat. This made me feel more secure and confident that I would be supported. The student services advisor also told me about the King Alfred scholarship which the university offers to care leavers and she gave me the amounts and dates of when each instalment would be paid into my bank. She also passed on my contact details to a member of the Widening Participation Department who was keen to employ care leavers, to work with children in care and care leavers in the surrounding areas of Winchester, at events that promoted higher education.
During my first year of university
I was employed by the Widening Participation Team. This helped me to earn some useful money as well as gain experience to add to my CV and the course I am studying. The advisor from student services continued to email me every so often to check that I was okay and to let me know of any events involving fellow care leavers at the university which I may be interested in. An intern working for the Widening Participation Team also set up a support group for care leavers to attend and meet each other. Lastly, my personal advisor from my local authority kept in touch and was always available to discuss my finances with me.
My first year experience of university has been an extremely positive one. I have been able to settle in to university halls, live independently, make many new friends and achieve academically. The pastoral and financial support that I received from my local authority Personal Advisor and staff at the University of Winchester before starting at university, on my first week and throughout my first year, has definitely helped me to succeed.
Next in our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, Nikki Pledger, Welfare Adviser at Peterborough Regional College, outlines the ways in which the college works to support its care leaver students.
Peterborough Regional College’s mission is to ‘raise aspiration, realise potential and inspire success through high quality education and training’. This mission underpins the Looked After Children and Care Leavers (LAC/CL) strategy to continue to raise learner success rates, raise learner outcomes and progression rates into FE, HE and employment and to widen participation through providing high quality student support mechanisms.
We are currently supporting 86 LAC/CL/Unaccompanied Minors. Success rates of LAC/CL learners improved by 3% in 2012/13. The target for 2013/14 is 86% and is currently at 92%.
We have developed strong collaboration with local authorities and other organisations supporting learners pre and post 16 with protocols/data sharing agreements. This has included the ongoing identification of learners from looked-after backgrounds pre-application, entry and on-programme.
We monitor the attendance of our LAC/CL and this has helped improve the attendance rates by 10%. A weekly attendance report goes to the local authorities/social workers/PAs who will make contact with the young person if attendance is low and arrange a meeting to discuss this and action support if required.
We arrange termly meetings with local authorities allowing us to work closely with the corporate parents. These have enabled us to develop and implement smarter strategies and ways of working including the setting up of the weekly attendance monitoring. The need for additional support has been recognised in these meetings and has led to enrichment activities being designed specifically for the needs of these students, for example, at the request of an LA, we set up a basic cookery course for unaccompanied minors to support independent living.
A ‘Welcome to Peterborough Regional College’ event came from these meetings as it was recognised that there needed to be something put in place to ensure the right support was given from the outset. This event is for local authorities, foster parents, carers and the young people to provide information and raise aspirations. It incorporates application, IAG/study/career progression information, transition and on-programme support, services available, key college contacts and complete applications for bursary. Our calendar of enrichment activities and parent evening letters are sent to LAs to ensure that they are made aware of these events.
We regularly review and update literature to ensure all are aware of contacts and support available including funds learners are entitled to and referral points.
We continually look for ways to remove barriers so we provide ‘in kind support’ such as luncheon vouchers and local transport vouchers. Another positive impact is the payments made for the vulnerable bursary. We have tailored these payments to meet the needs of the students. For example, we now make weekly payments throughout the academic year (44 weeks rather than 36 weeks) this prevents financial barriers when returning to study after the half term breaks.
We provide a range of flexible programmes which were described recently by an Ofsted inspector as probably the best provision he has seen. In achieving the Customer Service Excellence Standard in December, one of our key strengths was working with hard to reach groups. In February the British Council described our pastoral support as exemplary. All applicants to the college are guaranteed an interview and the guarantee that a suitable course will be found for them.
Continuing our series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, Jude Robinson, Service Manager for Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council, outlines what is being done to ensure that young people leaving the care of the local authority have the best possible chance of progressing positively into further learning or employment.
Our Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme provides children in care/care leavers with paid work experience and bespoke training, usually at level 1 or level 2, to support their progression to a full apprenticeship, or other employment. The Government’s Traineeship framework is funding the scheme and it forms part of the wider Hampshire Youth Investment Programme which gives young people apprenticeship opportunities within the County Council. This will provide 1,000 employment opportunities by 2018, and of these 150, will be for care leavers through our Internship Plus (Traineeship) programme.
Our programme is already having a positive impact on the life chances of some of our most vulnerable young people – 53 have started the Internship scheme, and of those completing, 50% have gone on to an apprenticeship, employment or further learning.
One intern on the scheme struggled to achieve in education due to time spent in care, changes in accommodation and health issues. She found it difficult to find work, particularly the kind of employment or work experience which could lead to the opportunities and professional training she aspired to. She had a series of casual jobs and became homeless.
Through our Programme, she is now working in a role that offers valuable experience. She is studying for an NVQ qualification in Business Administration and is hoping to gain an apprenticeship within Hampshire County Council. She now has a settled home life and is working towards a career in accountancy.
Another intern had a similar background, missing out on education while in foster care. He had never worked and found it hard to engage with those who wanted to support him. Our Programme has provided him with a job with in an outdoor-based role that he really enjoys. He has undertaken training and is currently studying for qualifications in maths and English functional skills. He hopes to gain an apprenticeship with the Council, when his internship finishes.
Finally, in her own words, one young person described her experiences on the Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme:
“The main reason I decided to take part in the programme was to help improve my confidence. I had been in college since I left school and I had never worked before. I felt the programme was a great opportunity to see what working life was like and what would be expected of me.
“I enjoyed everything about the programme. I really enjoyed working as part of a team, meeting different people and telling them about the service.
“I’m now working at the County Council, full time, as a Technical Officer with Trading Standards. The programme helped me gain the knowledge that I needed for my current role. Getting the job has also been a real boost to my confidence. It is great to be working and to be earning my own money. I would definitely encourage other young people in care to get involved with the Internship Plus (Traineeship) Programme.”
In the first of a series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, we hear from Amy, a care-leaver from the south-east of England, who is currently studying for a Masters Degree.
I was taken into care at the age of fourteen, after an entire childhood of watching my parents sink further into alcoholism, which lead to domestic violence and emotional abuse. My brother and I were removed before our little sister, who was only one at the time. We were placed by the local authority in the care of our aunt. We spent the next few months waiting to find out what would happen to our little sister, and after a particularly violent argument she was also placed in the care of our aunt. Just two weeks later our step-father died, and our mother was placed in prison. I haven’t had contact with her since.
It’s been almost eight years since I first entered the care system, and although I haven’t properly lived there for four years, I still go back to stay with my aunt and sister almost every weekend. However, living under the care system hasn’t always been easy, especially in the first few years. Before my eighteenth birthday my aunt fought for every aspect of support we got, even gaining leaving care support became a struggle as the local authority attempted to say that my brother and I were never in fact in care. It took a long time, but luckily the courts decided in our favour, and my brother and I were given a full leaving care package.
A big part of the support for me was the use of pathway planning. Twice a year my personal adviser and I would meet for a coffee and discuss any changes in my situation, my goals for the next six months and anything that I wanted or needed that could help me towards that goal. Although I wouldn’t say that the pathway plan was the reason for me getting into higher education (I would have found a way to fund university no matter what my situation) the extra support made available to me from pathway planning made things significantly easier. During my undergraduate degree my accommodation was entirely paid for, as well as all my books and course materials. If there was anything that could help towards my career goals these were also funded. I was able to volunteer without worrying about travelling costs and take courses that boosted my CV. Pathway planning also meant that I was able to move to France for a year and begin studying my Masters Degree without the worry of getting a bank loan.
Although the pathway plan ensured that any support I needed was placed in writing, it was my personal adviser who helped me to realise what I needed and what was available to me. But more than that, he found ways to get me things that were previously unprecedented. Thanks to his work the fees for my Masters Degree are being paid in full when I had previously feared I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it. I have also received a lot of support from my universities during both my degrees. My undergraduate university (Brunel University) in particular was fantastic. I received a number of grants to help with the cost of living, I was ensured on campus accommodation every year, I was given an emotional support network, support in my learning as some aspects of my education were affected in my childhood and I was given the chance to help other people from care who were considering joining the university. Volunteering with charities such as The Who Cares? Trust also gave me an emotional support base and an outlet to feel like I was making some good out of my bad experiences.
My care-leaver support has ensured that I have been able to truly make the most out of my higher education and the beginning of my adult life. I have had an amazing few years in education and I’m excited to continue learning and growing.Next year I’ll be finishing my Masters Degree and completing a Traineeship in a leading library in London. After that, who knows? Right now everything is coming up roses, and I’m happy to wait and see where life is going to take me.
How has pathway planning helped your learning? Or has a lack of understanding about what pathway planning is or a lack of support during pathway planning prevented you from achieving? We are interested to hear about your experiences – please let us know in the Comments section below.
We leave the Lib Dem Conference in Glasgow with renewed vigour, as the curtain falls on the 2014 Party Conference season.
Overall, it’s been a positive week, with great evidence that NIACE’s Manifesto
is gaining good traction in emerging Lib Dem policy. It was pleasing to see adult education so prominent within Vince Cable’s speech on Monday, where he highlighted his desire to “see a big expansion of community adult education”. On Tuesday
, we saw delegates vote to support the measures within the Lib Dem pre-manifesto, which incorporates the calls in NIACE’s Manifesto’s for a cross-party Commission on skills needs (positively, the Lib Dems want this to be a Royal Commission), our policy on learning accounts, and an important over-arching commitment to support lifelong learning for all. Also on Tuesday, delegates voted in support of the Lib Dem’s new policy document – Age Ready Britain –
which stated a firm commitment to work with NIACE to roll out and promote mid-life career reviews, following our successful pilots with Government.
We’ve worked hard over the past three weeks to directly promote our Manifesto to those influential politicians who will likely have a clear bearing on the employment and skills agenda in the run up to the General Election, and beyond.
Whilst it would be wrong to claim universal support for all of NIACE’s policy proposals from all the politicians/advisors we’ve met, what we’ve seen is a good general support for our Manifesto, and a good understanding of the need to do more to unlock the talents of all if we’re to sustain and further grow the economy. There is a clear shared consensus across the parties that we need more apprenticeships, that youth unemployment must be tackled, that growth in higher education must be secured, and that our poor levels of literacy and numeracy needs to be improved.
Despite this progress, we cannot afford to be complacent. Whilst party manifestos are still being drafted, we’re in a good position to make a final push to gain further traction for our Manifesto before the ink is dry.
A remaining challenge is the need to gain cross party agreement for a new organisational settlement which can enable delivery of a skills system which can meet the challenges of the 21st Century. The centrepiece of our Manifesto is a call for an overarching vision for lifelong learning, which unites education at all ages and at all stages of life. As well as a call for the creation of a single UK Government department responsible for education, skills and work, bringing together schooling, further and higher education within one department of state along with the welfare to work policies of the Department for Work and Pensions. We believe this should be underpinned by new localism which integrates skills with economic growth strategies and provides leadership through LEPs and combined authorities. Whilst we have seen a growing appetite for devolution of skills policy and budgets from all parties, we are yet to gain universal agreement of the need for central Government reform. We are also keen to see a much greater focus from all the parties for reform focused on individual outcomes which gives people much greater control of their own learning and which allows them to benefit from learning and skills development throughout their working lives.
The growing consensus for a Royal Commission to help set the long-term vision and policy for education and skills would go a long way to satisfying both these challenges as well as galvanising cross-party support. We will be redoubling our efforts to promote this across the political spectrum and our other Manifesto policy proposals as each of the Parties begin to finalise their policy positions in advance of the General Election. In many ways the real work starts now on the important mission to secure a skills system fit for the 21st Century which supports a truly lifelong learning culture.