Start the conversation early
Many young people don’t realise that university or college is even an option for them until they hear about it from a teacher, parent or carer. The earlier you start the conversation about what they enjoy doing, what they’re good at and what they might want to do for a living, the better prepared they will be to make the right choices about which subjects to study at school and - later on - when applying for a course.
Ensure that they have a pathway plan in place
Pathway plans begin at age 16 and are continually reviewed for as long as the local authority is offering support. If the young person in your care is planning on staying in education, this must be written into their plan because it forms an agreement between the care leaver and their local authority about what kind of support they will receive (financial, books, equipment etc). Without it, help can be hard to access. The care leaver and their Personal Adviser or Throughcare worker should both work on this together and it should be reviewed every six months. Pathway plans should be written before a young person leaves care, so that the right support is in place when they do come to leave. You can find out more information about pathway plans here.
Understand the types of funding available
The amount of money needed to go to university or college is a cause of legitimate concern for many care leavers and a ‘risk’ they don’t feel able to take. And, although there are many funding options open to them, this in itself can seem complex and bewildering.
You can help by familiarising yourself with all the details in the How do I get support? section of this site.
Look out for this icon on the university and college information pages. It appears whenever extra financial help is available.
You can also reassure them by reinforcing these messages:
- They are entitled to go
- Extra money is available to help them study - and some of it’s ‘free’
- They won’t need to pay any money back until they are earning a good salary
Please don’t encourage young people to study near where they live just to save money. Finding the right course and a good place to study it are the two most important factors in the decision-making process. Dropping out of the wrong course can prove much more expensive because any loans and bursaries will probably need to be paid back. It can also be much harder to secure funding a second time round.
While the prospect of finding extra money can be a real concern, many universities offer accommodation all year round, and some offer financial support to cover accommodation costs.
Offer support to care leavers by:
- Taking the time to understand and alleviate any fears. Is money really the issue or is it the prospect of moving away?
- Reassuring them that they will be able to afford it - and they won’t be on their own.
- Encouraging them to go on taster courses at universities & colleges.
- Encouraging them to talk to some named contacts to find out more.
- Keep in touch – once they are at university or college they will still require support and a friendly face.
- Helping them to visit a university or college open day and maybe going along with them.
- Understanding what’s involved in the application process - the UCAS website has a helpful timeline explaining what needs to be done and by when.