Tackling disadvantage: how to support care leavers

Colleges open up opportunities – and this is particularly important for those who have been in care, writes Liz Bromley
4th November 2020, 4:55pm


Tackling disadvantage: how to support care leavers

Disadvantage: How Colleges Can Support Care Leavers

I've worked my whole professional life in education and I see it as the stepping stone from what you have experienced in the past to what your future can hold.

For me, it is crucial to make sure that everyone who has life goals can, through accessible education, realise those ambitions. Further education is very inclusive and does make a real difference to real people in real situations: it opens up opportunities.

We aim to ensure that the FE experience we provide delivers a safe, nurturing and social, educational environment for all members of our colleges, and this is even more important for care leavers.

All students may initially feel apprehensive about the move from school to college, but it can be a particularly challenging time for care leavers because they don't have the family support that many take for granted and they don't necessarily have access to the advice and guidance that is going to enable them to have a positive future. 

Watch: 'Do not underestimate care-experienced children'

More: Care leavers 'struggle to cope financially'

Background: Government doubles care leavers' internship offer

At NCG, we want to make sure that every care leaver who wants an education is welcomed into our colleges and given the personal and educational support, as well as the necessary information, advice and guidance, to make the right decisions for their long-term future.

Supporting care leavers in colleges

This is why we are so pleased to be working with the Care Leaver Covenant, which is funded by the Department for Education, and is committed to supporting young people into education, training and employment.

NCG has seven colleges throughout the UK and, across the group, we have 325 care leavers and looked-after young people who have disclosed their circumstances to us in a variety of ways.

We know that some of them feel there is a stigma attached to being care-experienced and they are able to tell us via their enrolment forms, when applying for financial support, or their social workers tell us. Additionally, we train our student-facing staff to look out for signs or words that might identify care leavers and looked-after young people so that we are able to give them the additional support they need.

Under the partnership agreement with the covenant, we have three covenant progression coordinators (CPCs), who are all care-experienced themselves, and are linked to NCG sites based in the North, Midlands and South regions. Working with the colleges' support staff, CPCs play a joint role in preparing and supporting care leavers; helping them to access any opportunities during or post-study. 

This is a pilot project - we are the first FE organisation in the country to have these dedicated CPCs - and it enables the Care Leaver Covenant to work directly with care-experienced students in the post-16 system without having to rely on referrals or a third party. 

Our national breadth means the CPCs can gather data and experiences of care leavers on a national scale, informing future support for them and enabling the covenant to develop its strategy going forwards. The hope is that our collaborative work will become a blueprint for supporting care leavers in other FE settings.

Working with the Care Leaver Covenant also gives NCG the opportunity to have cross-group collaboration, sharing best practice in relation to support and opportunities for care leavers, and further exploring the transition from young person to adulthood, as well as progression opportunities in education and employment. We also plan to work with the Care Leaver Covenant to develop improved communications with our local authorities, and there is the potential to grow new links to employers and other specialist organisations. 

At NCG we have a very clear mission to provide social mobilisation for the individual, and economic prosperity for the communities we serve, and to deliver these through exceptional education. For us, working with care leavers achieves all these aims; we are working hard to secure them positive futures and provide them with an equal platform, and we are encouraging other FE providers, businesses and organisations to follow suit and increase opportunities for vulnerable young people, for the benefit of society as a whole.

Liz Bromley is the chief executive of NCG

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