Full life-cycle support for care leavers
London Metropolitan University understands the specific challenges faced by care experienced students throughout their student journey. The support available at the University reflects this, and follows the latest principles and guidance from sources including the Department for Education (DfE), the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), First Star, Become and the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL).
We realise the importance of oversight of the work we do with care leavers and care-experienced students and as such all activity and policies are monitored by various committees including the Access and Participation Strategic Planning Group, the Access and Participation Operational Group and the Learning and Teaching Quality Committee. The new Centre for Equity and Inclusion will also have oversight over all care-experienced activities and will monitor and evaluate interventions.
Outreach in the Community
Bespoke events for young people– The widening participation (WP) team coordinates bespoke visits for care-experienced individuals or groups of young people, in collaboration with local authorities and virtual schools. Visits include a chance to discuss the support available with the University’s Designated Named Contact for Care Leavers , view the campus, chat with current students, and where possible, to meet relevant academic tutors. Friends, family, carers and social workers are also welcome. Where possible we employ care-experienced student ambassadors to share their experiences and advice and tailor activities to each individual’s need and in response to feedback.
Activities for advisers – The university also runs activities for advisers, including foster carer “Introduction to uni coffee mornings “ and CPD sessions on supporting care-experienced students applying to Higher Education for teachers and advisers.
Collaborative working – The WP team has been working collaboratively across the University’s networks (with organisations such as AccessHE and the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA) for many years to deliver large-scale information days, bringing together multiple universities and charities to the same venue to provide specialist information, advice and guidance (IAG) and to support care-experienced applicants and their advisers in exploring their higher education options.
Priority across all activities and other support – Care-experienced students are a priority group on all broader WP projects at the university, including summer schools and Saturday clubs. This is highlighted on application forms and web pages and we also often support individuals with travel costs.
Events for current students – The WP team works closely with the University’s Designated Named Contact for Care Leavers, to run bespoke events supporting care-experienced students through their entire student journey. Recent activities include social events, ‘Life after University’ career days, and ‘Your rights and entitlements’ sessions. We also prioritise care experienced for Student Ambassador jobs and this is highlighted in the Student Ambassador recruitment pages. We also have relationships with a number of care-related charities, such as Drive Forward, Become and Buttle UK and invite them in and/or refer students where appropriate.
Financial and other support for current students
Recognising that care leavers and care experienced students do not generally have access to financial support from their family and mainly rely on funding from the local authority, the University offers advice on how to maximise income and also provides financial and other assistance as follows:
Care leavers’ bursary – London Met offers a care leavers’ bursary for full-time students of £1,500 for each progressive year of their undergraduate degree. This is intended to help towards course costs and basic living expenses, and is usually paid in three instalments at the beginning of each term. Applications for the bursary are made automatically when students apply for Student Finance England (SFE) funding. Care experienced students are encouraged to contact Student Services for financial help and support in accessing other funds.
Hardship support fund – Available during both term-times and the summer period, this fund is intended to assist students who are facing particular financial difficulty in remaining on their course. Care Leavers are treated as priority applicants.
Accommodation support – London Met understands the importance of having a regular fixed address for care leavers, to enable them to feel settled and focused on their studies. We work with care leavers to find suitable accommodation and also assist in arranging accommodation for 365 days of the year. London Met is also one of a small number of universities whose students are eligible to apply for a Unite Foundation scholarship scheme which could provide care leavers with three years of free student accommodation.
Admissions – We welcome applications from students who have had experience of being in local authority care and have appointed a member of staff with specific responsibility to support applicants who are care-experienced. We will contact offer holders who indicate on their application form that they have been in care to discuss qualifications or any concerns and let them know of the support we are able to offer.
Other Student Service support – Care leavers/care experienced students will also be fast-tracked into other areas in Student Services such as DDS and Counselling as a priority. The designated member of staff will make sure students are aware of this. We will also help care leavers with asylum seeker/discretionary leave to remain support where necessary.
Designated member of staff – The University employs a named, specialist, full-time, permanent Care Leaver Adviser to support and advocate on behalf of care leavers and care experienced. This person belongs to relevant networks and attends training to keep up to date. In addition to assisting with funding from SFE and checking students are receiving all the financial support available, they may also (with consent) communicate with social workers/personal advisers to coordinate the best arrangements and support to suit the individual’s needs. The named contact also provides additional holistic support and advice, and will facilitate direct referrals and signposting to appropriate specialist services within or external to the University, such as to the Disabilities and Dyslexia Service, or the NHS.
They will also offer pre-entry summer events to look at accommodation/funding for care leavers/experienced as well as a ‘meet the team’ event, where they can meet the University named contact as well as named contacts in various teams through careers/counselling and DDS. Once the student is enrolled the named contact will work to provide the student/careleaver with all the appropriate interventions and will work in a multi agency fashion with any external bodies to provide a robust and comprehensive package of support.
In 2020/21 there will be additional initiatives being rolled out and we will be looking to put in place data sets which will show distance travelled and impact through such initiatives.
Support networks – As well as financial and emotional support, the University offers academic assistance such as study skills training. Workshops are run throughout the year specifically for care-experienced students on careers, funding, and confidence-building, as well as fun social events to aid in building social networks. There are also opportunities to be involved in tailored work placements at the university.
Careers advice – Students have a named Careers Consultant who works in partnership with the named Care Leaver Adviser. Care-experienced students are also able to use the Careers & Employability Service for up to three years after graduation.
In addition to our regular services, we provide the following unique services for care leavers;
1. One to one support from a specialist careers consultant where they can discuss job searching, job applications, CVs and interview preparation. They can also talk about their future career options. This information can be found on the careers website. Students also have access to a Careers Portal that has many resources to help them in their career planning
2. A termly newsletter updating them about suitable job and internship opportunities and upcoming careers events and webinars.
3. An event for care leavers with input from other university services, such as Student Money & Accommodation Advice, Counselling and the Disability & Disability Service. This gives a great opportunity for them to receive information, advice and guidance from a wide variety of professionals.
Wider University Staff Training – We piloted some CPD sessions with staff in the School of Social Professions on care leavers and estranged students in 2019/20 and we will look to roll this out across all 6 schools in 2020/2021. Care leaver/care-experienced training has also been given to staff at the Staff Festival 2019 and a Homelessness Conference at the University for local council, FE college and university staff. We will continue to support these events in 2020/21.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
Current work and commitments relevant to care leavers
As an equal opportunities employer focused on transforming lives through education, we are committed to helping all current and future employees to reach their potential. We are particularly passionate about helping our own care leaver students prepare for and successfully take the next step into employment.
All care experienced students have access to dedicated careers support for three years after they graduate, including one to one support from a named careers contact and updating them about suitable job and internship opportunities and upcoming careers events and webinars.
Offering care leavers a package of a course combined with the opportunity of a paid work placement, care experienced students are given priority within our successful student employment and work experience programmes. We have a long standing commitment to provide work experience – including paid work to help them financially and to give them the confidence and employment skills to enable a smooth transition from education into the world of work.
As well as the above, current students who are care experienced are prioritised for work for our Student Ambassador initiative many of our care-experienced students have worked directly for the university and in the community.
All work offered to current students will be at a minimum rate of the London Living Wage.
Potential future work
Future potential activities to support care-experienced employees that are currently being actively discussed include:
- Establishing a staff care-leaver network, alongside our other inclusive staff networks
- Clearer invitations for care leavers and other under-represented groups to apply for roles
- A guaranteed interview scheme
- Collecting more systemic data on employees and applicants who are care-experienced e.g. through equality monitoring forms and annual staff surveys
As part of the new six year University strategy we will be focussing on how we work with our local community as an important civic institution, aligning our activities to support the objectives of other key organisations in our localities and the wider capital, driving opportunity and prosperity for all.
We are looking at six challenges that London faces. One area we are focussing on is Poverty & Deprivation and within this strand we have started working with many care leaver/experienced charities and organisations including but not limited to, Buttle UK, DriveForward, FirstStarUK, and Become. We are in the early stages of conversations but are looking to support the work they do further as a university. The work will embrace the strategic priorities of our these partners and provide opportunities for our staff and students to work directly with these institutions and their communities. This would include involving our students and staff in local community initiatives, community development projects and volunteering initiatives linked to the above. And in turn providing the capital with values-driven graduates who will support London’s transformation in line with our mission.
We also currently run two open to students/staff and the wider community. One is a sports injury clinic and one for legal advice, currently on consumer issues, but set to expand. These clinics are run by students with staff supervision and care experienced will be given priority access to these clinics as well as priority placements in the clinic for care experienced students. The law clinic is free to everyone and we are currently looking for a reduced price for care experienced for the sports injury clinic. Over the next 12 months we will be adding at least 4 new clinics from other subject areas linked to the challenges we have identified and not only will care experienced in the community have priority access but care experienced students will have priority access to work on them.
We are also currently working with Waltham Forest College and Council on a hub “Get Uni Ready” for higher education Information Advice and Guidance for the wider borough. Once again, care experienced students have priority for appointments and specialist advice is available for them.
We commit to work with local partners and to prioritise the needs of those with experience of care, including tailored communications and campaigns.