The University of Portsmouth is committed to supporting Care Leavers and has created a Care Leaver Covenant working group consisting of key contacts throughout the University to ensure we meet the DfE principles for supporting this group of students and spread awareness of the 12×24 Pledge.
The University has identified Care Leavers as a target group for its Access and Participation Plan 2020-25 and has set challenging recruitment targets to reflect this. As previous Buttle UK quality mark holders, signatories of the Stand Alone Pledge and members of NNECL, we welcome the prospect of a new kitemark and look forward to seeing the outcomes of the pilot and will give consideration to signing up in Spring 2020 when it is finalised.
The University of Portsmouth is working to review and implement aspects of its support for the care leaving community and this is detailed below indicating our planned “next steps”. Our Covenant offer will be updated by the end of January 2020 detailing achievable commitments by end of the academic year.
Financial Support – A Care Leaver Bursary of £1,700 per annum offered to students who meet qualifying criteria. This is non-means tested and available for each year of undergraduate and postgraduate study. These students are also a priority for the discretionary University Support Funds and regular budgeting support.
Designated member of staff – Students are offered a named Personal Support Adviser (PSA) who is available pre-entry and whilst studying to liaise with other support services and signpost/refer when necessary. Students have a designated email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. This person is identified on the Propel website and is responsible for ensuring that our institutional information is up to date and accurate at all times.
Accommodation Support – we offer a guaranteed place in University Halls of Residence for 52 weeks of the year should the student require it. Students wishing to access private sector accommodation in their second and subsequent years are a priority for the University Rent Guarantor Scheme run jointly by Finance and Housing. As an Institution, we also work collaboratively with Unite Students who offer scholarships of a free Halls place for the duration of the student’s course.
Support Networks – New students have access to the Welcome Ambassador Scheme run by Wellbeing Service which provides peer support for new students entering HE, and focuses on helping new students to build networks with other new peers. Existing student care leavers will be encouraged to train for Welcome Ambassador roles where they can, in turn, offer support to new student care leavers joining the University. The Student Wellbeing Service also offers support to any student groups wishing to develop special interest support groups, and has structures to support any estranged or care leaver students who would like support to develop a peer-led network.
The University is also developing a communication plan for all new Care Leaver students which will involve contacting them prior to starting the course and advising them of the support available once studying. A meeting is offered when they arrive in Portsmouth and regular contact is made throughout the year to keep in touch and publicise the various forms of support and community schemes in place (through a new newsletter).
The Student Finance Team also work closely with the new Personal Tutor network to provide training for staff on the challenges faced by Care Leavers. The aim is also to raise awareness of the support available and provide clear referral channels to the various services across campus.
Website – The University has a designated page outlining the financial and housing support available to Care Leavers. There are also a number of articles on the MyPort knowledge base for current students and on the Propel website for prospective students. These will all be updated to reflect the support outlined in this Covenant proposal. The position of this page is currently being reviewed as part of the University Web Transform project and the intention is to make it more accessible and visible to students with a comprehensive overview of the support offered.
Careers Advice – The University’s matrix accredited Careers and Employability Service offers support for students for up to five years after graduation.
In order to understand what support this group of students needs, we will be running focus groups in the coming academic year to speak with our current Care Leavers to establish what they would like to see us offer in terms of communication, pastoral support, events and offers. We can then use this feedback to develop our offer moving forward.
We are planning to implement an improved identification and referral process between Student Finance, Student Housing and Wellbeing for applicants and new starters. This will coincide with the introduction of a new Student Records System which is being launched this year which will hopefully provide better reporting and communication opportunities.
We are also planning to introduce a new regular newsletter outlining support and events targeted at Care Leavers and Estranged Students. This will cover community events and schemes (outlined below in the relevant section); career development and employment opportunities such as volunteering and overseas Summer Schools run through UoP Global; and general wellbeing support on offer. In addition events happening over the Christmas, Summer and Easter breaks will be publicised as we know these students can feel particularly vulnerable at these times of year.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
In 20/21 a new career mentoring programme will be launched in collaboration with local employers targeting students in receipt of bursaries including Care Leavers. This will be run through the University Careers and Employability Service and targeted directly at Care Leaver Bursary recipients.
In addition we are exploring the possibility of developing the following schemes for Care Leavers:
Guaranteed interview for paid Student Ambassador Work
University students are offered paid work as Student Ambassadors who have a presence at Open Days and other events with prospective students to support recruitment and widen participation. The intention is to advertise these opportunities via the usual channels however, targeted communications will be sent to Care Leavers to highlight these opportunities.
If the student wishes to apply they would be guaranteed an interview as a Care Leaver. As part of this targeted communication, Care Leavers will be encouraged to consider training and volunteering within the Welcome Ambassador scheme. This provides an alternative route to paid work on Open Days, and also offers training and experience likely to enhance applications for the full Student Ambassador roles.
In the event of unsuccessful interviews, robust feedback will be given and referral made to the University Careers and Employability Service.
Sports and Recreation opportunities
The University Sport and Recreation Team has a well-established volunteering programme and strong links with the local community. The service are keen to be involved in supporting Care Leavers further and will work with us to consult students on what they would like to see us offer. In terms of employment opportunities, suggestions include:
Prioritising Care Leavers for interview on internships and work placements through Sport and Recreation Team.
Prioritising Care Leavers for casual student work opportunities in Sport and Recreation’s operational team.
Care Leaver Staff
Further consultation work is needed with the university’s Human Resources team to explore opportunities to identify Care Leaver applicants and consider how we can best meet their needs. First steps would be to gather Care Leaver data as part of University Equality and Diversity optional questionnaire at the point of application.
The University of Portsmouth has a well-established Recruitment and Outreach Team who work with schools, colleges and local partners to raise the aspirations of students from under-represented groups including Care Leavers.
As part of the University’s Access and Participation Plan for 2020-25 we have pledged to work collaboratively with the Southern Universities Network (SUN) to narrow the attainment gap in the SUN region for looked after children, supporting the virtual school strategic priorities.
To meet this pledge we will seek to deliver more targeted work for Care Leavers with the schools/colleges that we work with and to raise the profile of our offer for this group. Early plans will focus on providing CPD opportunities for staff in local authorities (including foster carers and virtual schools) as well as possible on-campus events for families supporting looked after children.
Student Finance Centre staff with expertise in support for Care Leavers deliver pre-entry talks in schools and colleges with a focus on WP marker institutions. These cover the current support available to Care Leavers at the University however, smaller bespoke events or workshops are available on request.
The University is committed to community engagement and has a number of free clinics on offer to students and the wider community. These include the Eye Clinic, Dental Clinic and General Legal Advice Clinic. We will ensure we raise awareness of these clinics to our Care Leaver community both within the student body and through our Local Authority and SUN contacts via a targeted newsletter and CPD/networking events.
Portsmouth Scholars Programme – The University runs the Portsmouth Scholars Programme in partnership with a Local FE Institution where current undergraduate students provide mentor support to prospective students within the institution. This scheme has identified a need to provide targeted mentor support for looked after children and the college are interested in strengthening their support provision.
All of the above opportunities (and any new schemes which arise) will be publicised through a newsletter which will be made available to Care Leavers when identified. The University social media and general communication channels will also be utilised alongside targeted events on campus. These schemes can also be shared with Virtual Schools and Local Authority contacts to ensure the wider community remains engaged.