26 Nov 2013
As I am the university contact for Looked after Young People and Care Leavers, I get to see first-hand the impact that this support and investment has, and how the range of support has expanded and diversified over the years to meet the students’ needs.
Three years ago I was helping a student to move in; filling the role of big sister, we located her flat in halls, unpacked her belongings, claimed her kitchen cupboards for the year and set off to the local supermarket to fill them. It was only whilst we were wandering the aisles that it became clear that the student had very little money (less than £10) with her and that she wasn’t expecting to receive any financial support from her local authority for another five days. I know very few parents who would send their son or daughter across the country to a new city with only small change in their pockets and so we wanted to step up as Corporate Parents. From that day on the ‘Welcome’ food vouchers were launched to make sure that every Care Leaver moving into our halls of residence does not have to worry so much about that first shop.
A year on I helped the same student to complete an application to work on a summer camp with young people and we were thrilled to hear that she got the job. However, it meant living at camp for the whole summer: her options were to pay rent for somewhere she wasn’t going to live or to take all of her worldly belongings with her. So, fortunately we were able to step in and offer storage for her things to be kept safe over the summer.
Now in her final year, this particular student is working as a Student Ambassador; sharing her experiences with other care leavers and as a result she will become a well-rounded graduate with a wealth of experience. The support we’ve offered has helped, but it’s her determination that has been the driving force. The lessons we have learnt from her and the other students we work with will continue to ensure that we offer the best possible support to those students who really need it.
Megan Lunn, Student Recruitment Coordinator at University of Sunderland