CARE LEAVERS studying at Newcastle College will now benefit from extra support, thanks to a unique new partnership between the Care Leaver Covenant and NCG.
The Care Leaver Covenant is funded by the Department for Education and tackles the disadvantages that young people aged 16-25 face when leaving care, helping them to live independently. It works with a range of organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors to create tangible opportunities for care leavers, including employment, education and training, safety and security, health, financial independence and independent living.
The partnership with NCG marks the Covenant’s first collaboration with a further education provider and is aimed at helping care experienced students overcome barriers to take up employment and higher education opportunities available to them.
There are around 70,000 young people in care in the UK, with approximately 4,000 of those here in the North East. 10,000 of those young people leave care each year, becoming care leavers (approx. 600 in the North East).
The Covenant will support all seven NCG colleges across England, including Newcastle College and Newcastle Sixth Form College, to better respond to the specific challenges faced by care leavers - such as having no family support and entering education with no stable housing or income.
As part of the pilot scheme, a Covenant Progression Coordinator will be based at the colleges and work with student services staff and helping them to identify, match and support care experienced students into Covenant employment and leisure opportunities.
At Newcastle College, that Progression Coordinator is Kelly Stanley. As a care leaver herself she says that the support she received during her time at college was critical and her role will allow her to support others in the same way.
“I went into the care system at quite a late stage,” she says. “It was around my 15th birthday, so I ended up juggling a lot of disruption in my life. I was studying for my GCSEs when I went into foster care and then had to deal with regular changes of foster carers while I was transitioning from school to college.
“I enrolled at Newcastle College and became a care leaver while I was in my second year there.
“As both a looked after child and a care leaver, I received a lot of support from the Learning Support Team and my own Learning Mentor while I was at the College and that support was so needed. I was suffering with anxiety and then I was diagnosed as dyslexic, so it was so helpful to receive that additional support.
“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to progress to Sunderland University to study a degree in Social Sciences with Sociology and later on a Masters degree. I faced so many barriers when I was trying to apply for a university place – things like needing a guarantor to secure university accommodation – and it is those barriers that I now want to help other care leavers to overcome.
“I’ve always been passionate about advocating for young people in care and leaving care. I’ve been in their shoes and I want them to understand what their future could look like and give them a voice, especially because they’ve likely come from a situation where they’ve never had one.
“This role gives me the opportunity to do that on a scale that has never been done before – working not only in Newcastle but sharing best practice across seven different colleges and showcasing to a number of local authorities what more can be done to remove barriers and support those young people who need it.”
As well as NCG, other signatories to the Care Leaver Covenant who have pledged to provide support for care leavers include Amazon, Barclays, Metro Bank, Superdry and e.on, with over 160 published offers on the Covenant’s bespoke app and website.
“This partnership demonstrates that NCG is willing to go the extra mile to support care leavers, having been early signatories and supporters of the Covenant,” said Matthew Gordon, Chief Executive of Spectra, delivery partner of the Care Leaver Covenant.
“As the first collaboration like this between a FE provider and the Covenant, we are excited to see how we can work together to benefit the care leavers at these colleges and support them to find the employment options through our network of signatories. These opportunities will enable them to achieve financial stability and be better prepared and supported to live independently.”
Scott Bullock, Principal of Newcastle College, said: “Our aim is to unlock the potential of every student that begins their journey with us, whatever their background, and it's our duty to ensure that we teach them the skills so that they can enter employment after completing their studies.
“Students can face disadvantages when leaving care, so having a Progression Coordinator within our colleges means that we can have that additional focus on their needs and identify opportunities for them to get the training, jobs and experiences that can help them to thrive.”