DMU supports all students with experience of care; to be eligible for the Care Leaver Bursary (CLB) students need to have spent at least 13 weeks in care after 14th birthday and one day on/after 16th birthday, care experienced students not eligible for the CLB can apply to the DMU Support Fund which has a care experienced category.
In 2018 the summer school was absorbed into the activities of the Reach partnership which has now been replaced by UniConnect Outreach Hub programme commissioned by the Office for Students. The programme will be focusing targeted widening participation work to this cohort from this academic year 2020/21 (the activity has only just started).
Care leavers are a target area for the collaborative provision project.
Transitional and Student support
The Transitions Team consists of two designated point of contact (HE Guidance Officers) for care experienced students. Information is promoted through the DMU website, Open Days, Propel and NNECL.
Transitions offer pastoral support throughout the student journey from pre-entry onwards. The team can offer bespoke campus tours and 1:1 guidance with students interested in undertaking higher education whether at DMU or elsewhere. This can involve meeting with academics, campus tours and meeting current care leaver students to find out what being at university is like. We can also offer this at general Open Days.
DMU has partnered with the Unite Foundation to provide free hall places in a Unite Students hall for 3 years for care leaver/estranged students only. The team assist new and continuing students to make an application and support them in this process. We will also act as housing guarantor for a limited number of applicants where all other avenues have been exhausted. This is an increasing issue as local authorities limit their support for care leavers due to budget constraints. DMU also has a commitment to offer 365 day accommodation for care leavers if needed.
The Transitions Team is proactive in contacting applicants when their details are received through the UCAS tick box. Applicants are emailed as a first point of contact introducing the team and asking for confirmation of care leaver status to ensure they have accurately ticked the box. This is followed up by a phone call to ensure everything is in place for starting university and evidence has been received regarding care leaver status. There is a £1000 care leaver bursary, awarded for each year of study and during periods of interruption. From 2020/21 this has been extended as a pilot, to all care experienced students who can provide evidence of time in care. Housing and kitchen packs are also available to students who do not have their own things when moving into halls.
The team organise a welcome event for all new care leavers at the start of the academic year. In 2019 DMU donated the university’s Leicester City FC match day hospitality box to enable a small group of care leavers to get together for a meal and to watch a Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. We hope to repeat this in future years, but have had to organise a virtual meeting for 2020 with gift bags delivered to each participant.
Besides having responsibility for care leaver students, Transitions also organise preparation days and summer schools for DMU offer holders. This gives us the opportunity to offer paid work to care leavers to act as student ambassadors. This helps to build their confidence and also gives us an opportunity to get to know some of them better.
Through attending training and providing ongoing support to care leavers we understand some of the challenges these students face and have nominated some of our care leavers for awards. Three DMU students have won Learning & Work Institute national awards which has given them the opportunity to have their success celebrated and attend a reception at the Houses of Parliament. Their stories are available at the following links.
DMU has a statistical dashboard to analyse care leaver attainment and key characteristics. The dashboard draws on data captured during the registration processes and at academic milestones which allows support services to review: distribution of students across courses and faculties; progression and withdrawal data; grade level outcomes for final year students; and key demographic information, such as ethnicity and disability. The dashboard also allows for comparison with university averages to help identify distinct care leaver patterns.
Information on care leavers is included in the University’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and also personal tutor training to raise awareness of the additional challenges this group may have, alongside estranged students and others with no or little family support.
DMU has a specialist careers advisor for care leavers – Sang Townsley. Sang previously worked with care leavers and has experience of this groups needs.
The team attend East Midlands Care Leavers Activities and Student Support (EMCLASS) meetings which feed into the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL). NNECL’s first meeting was held at DMU and the second conference was hosted at the university. A member of the Transitions Team at DMU currently holds a strategic role within NNECL as Vice Chair (Conference), and as the East Midlands lead, nnecl.org/about/national-strategy-group. DMU has demonstrated its commitment to care leavers by supporting NNECL and allowing attendance at events such as the launch of the Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) report 12 by 24. DMU has a commitment to signing up to the NNECL Quality Mark once it is launched.
Due to COVID-19 DMU have recruited an additional member of staff to focus on care leaver students, ensuring that they have more regular contact with the Transitions Team and reinforcing messaging that the service is still open. We will review this post regarding maintaining the additional support for the rest of the academic year. In addition, we will monitor the new care experienced category added to the DMU Support Fund with the view to making this permanent.
- We will review our approach to admissions for care leavers and ensure that applicants are considered for a contextualised admission (reduced offer or priority interview) if they do not meet entry requirements.
- We will formalise our housing guarantor offer to care leavers to remove this barrier to a smooth transition to university.
- We will continue to review our offer to ensure that the needs of care leavers can be met, including their wellbeing and emotional support.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
DMU is keen to explore how, within our organisation, we could respond to this aspect of the Covenant. This could include additional tailored support for student care-leavers to access employment, although this would require reflection on the low success of a previous intervention as mentioned above.
- Explore internal internships and support care leavers to access internal and external placements and other relevant opportunities
- Designated Contact within Careers and Employability to promote and enhance access to opportunities at DMU for care experienced students
- A paid frontrunner internship for a Care Leaver Co-ordinator will be ringfenced annually for a care experienced student.
Community relationships and liaison with schools are predominantly managed through DMU Local activity around WP, with care leavers being a category of interest for WP rather than across the whole portfolio of intervention. Schools and college interventions are not specifically targeted at care leavers at present.
DMU Local maintains relationships with more than 60 schools in the area through participation in on and off campus projects and events, as well as regular communication with WP leads in those schools.
The Transitions Team attend the Leicestershire Virtual School college forums. This is organised by the virtual school team who invite designated care leaver/children in care college contacts. The Forum is designed to address current issues and concerns, exchange good practice, build networks and referral mechanisms. We have worked to build good relationships with Leicester City and Leicestershire County Councils and attend training/conferences delivered by the virtual school team.
The team have also established a relationship with Leicestershire Cares. Transitions works with this local charity to promote care leaver support through activities designed to promote wellbeing, engagement and life skills. The charity has come on to campus to meet students and two DMU students are currently active within the group.
A Care Professionals training day is delivered once a year open to everyone supporting care leavers in a professional capacity, from social workers, personal advisors and education teams, through to foster carers. The day provides delegates with key information about studying at university as a care leaver and provides an opportunity to discuss support available.
DMUGlobal currently offers a subsidised international student experience to all students. Students can apply for additional support through a widening participation fund. We will actively promote this opportunity to care leavers to increase the take up amongst this group.
- DMU’s widening participation approach is currently being redeveloped at present and Care Leavers will feature within this – we are exploring support projects in the community for care leavers as a potentially isolated population and will have further updates in the future.
- Actively promote DMU Global trips to encourage care leavers to gain an international experience to enrich their studies.
- Promote the ‘Good Neighbours’ buddying scheme to care leavers starting at DMU in September to help with the transition to university and life in halls.
- Work with DMU partners to provide a cultural/sport opportunity at least once in the first term