Friday, 20 October 2017

The ten essential for those supporting people in care

The step to higher education is daunting for everyone – but for those who come from a care background it can be even more daunting. That’s why we’ve developed a suit of resources to help teachers and advisers support students who may be care leavers – they’re all available from our supporting care leavers toolkit. Here we’ve picked out the ten essentials for supporting people in care:

  1. Advocate, encourage and support the educational development of looked after children. Have aspirations for them from a very young age. 
  2. Forward planning is extremely important. If a young person who is in care is thinking about higher education, make sure that an adviser knows this at their school. This is essential to ensure they get the appropriate funding and support as early as possible. 
  3. Help them plan for the university or college that suits them best. a. Involve yourself with planning and preparation. b. Attend open days with them. Go to for more information. c. Gather information about the support packages available. d. Encourage them to speak to the designated care leaver contact at each university or college. 
  4. Find out if certain universities or colleges have special arrangements for care leavers. For example, some offer university accommodation over the holidays, others may give priority access to, or even a guaranteed place, in university accommodation. The Who Cares? Trust Handbook is a useful guide: 
  5. Familiarise yourself with the UCAS application process and application deadlines. List key dates so you know what needs to be done. You can find out more information at
  6. Listen. Encourage them to talk about how they feel about moving on, starting afresh and aspects of university or college life. 
  7. Encourage and support them to develop new friendships when they start university or college.
  8. Prepare them for independent living. Get them up to speed with self-care skills like cooking, cleaning and budgeting. 
  9. Make sure that any financial support they receive from their local authority is confirmed in writing and that they have a copy of the document when they start university or college. 
  10. Keep in touch. Make sure you find the time to regularly contact them to see how they are getting on once they have moved on

To access this in a downloadable pdf – along with more resources visit our supporting care leavers toolkit. 

Care leavers: Three reasons to tick the box

This week is National Care Leavers' Week! We’ll be publishing daily blogs to help students and teachers find out more about the support that’s available to people who are going in to higher education to care.

There is lots of support for care leavers in higher education, but the key thing is unis need to know you’re coming from a care background. To make this critical first step happen you need to tick the box in the care questions on your UCAS application. Here are the three key reasons you should tick the box:
  1. So admissions staff at the universities and colleges you are applying to can consider your achievements and potential in context.
  2. So that your chosen universities and colleges can let you know what additional support you are entitled to, this will make sure you’re fully supported
  3. The information is confidential – they’ll only share this information with those who need to know, and who you agree should be informed.
For more information on the support that’s available visit our care leavers page.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How taking social action can help you stand out

Making your UCAS application stand out from the crowd can be challenging. One thing you could consider is taking part in ‘social action’ to show you’re a motivated, disciplined, and resilient person.

By social action we mean campaigning, fundraising, or even volunteering. This can give you something unique to talk about in your personal statement, and can reinforce your commitment to your chosen study area. There are loads of organisations you can contact to discuss opportunities – from the Scouts and Girl Guides, to your local council.

We’re Step Up To Serve, a charity that coordinates the #iwill campaign. We work with over 750 organisations across the education, business, voluntary, and health sectors, to ensure every young person has the opportunity to take part in social action.

The beauty of social action is that it has a double benefit – both to the communities you serve, and to you taking part.

Anita said she ‘found that being involved in social action before heading to university made me a more confident person, which helped me to interact and meet new students from diverse backgrounds. Having set up my own campaigns since the age of 16, university gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed to lead workshops and join mental health societies to benefit other students in Belfast.’ 

We also have #iwill ambassadors – young people who are chosen because they’ve done sensational things for their community, changed their own lives, and the lives of others.

Getting involved in social action can also help you in other ways.

  1. Helping you make the transition to uni.
‘Social action helped me develop the grit resilience and life skills I needed to help me deal with the transition into university life. It gave me the opportunity to find my voice, share it, and feel confident in my skills and opinions – meaning I came to uni much more confident and optimistic than I would have!’ says Jack, who has campaigned on mental health and volunteered with the Scouts.

  1. Helping you meet new people.
Naomi volunteers for NSPCC, and for her ‘moving to university was a big deal and big change. I was really worried about not fitting in because I don't really drink and didn't want to go out all the time. But social action provided me that opportunity to meet people. And once social action has supported you getting into university, and then made your time there amazing, it doesn’t stop giving.”

  1. Giving you something else to add to your CV.
‘Once I graduated, I was surprised by how much employers valued the social action that I'd been involved with. Many employers have remarked that volunteering and campaigning was just as important as work experience, showing initiative and a good work ethic. Many of my answers in my job interview related to examples of volunteering during university, and it helped me get the graduate job I have now!’ Megan first got involved in social action through the National Citizens Service, and now does so with Vinspired, and at her university.

From 20 – 24 November, our partners across the campaign are celebrating #iwillweek. Throughout the week, we will be working with hundreds of organisations to celebrate young people, and the impact they’ve had on their local communities, as well as the work of our partners to extend these opportunities to all young people. 

So, if you’re interested in taking part in social action, take a look at organisations who can offer opportunities to you at

Monday, 16 October 2017

My first few weeks at uni

Imagine this - someone turns to you and says ‘I can help make your dreams come true’.

‘Okay?’ You respond. Curious as to how this will work.

‘It’s simple.’ They begin to explain. ‘All you have to do is experience 2 years of stress to meet our standards, then be placed in a house with a group of strangers. You will then live with them, cook with them, clean with them and party with them for a year. I can guarantee this will be the best time of your life.’

Well that is pretty much the first few weeks of university. You have the opportunity to have your dream job by completing the degree you need but to do so, you move away from home, live with a group of strangers (who will become some of your closest friends) and party a lot. But yes, without a doubt, these have been two of the best weeks of my life.

At first it was very daunting, I came into my accommodation and the girl in the room opposite me was still unpacking with her mum. I said an awkward hello and introduced myself. This occurred every time I met a new flat mate but with each new flat mate, I got more and more excited because I realised I have the best people in my flat. What you have to remember in a time like this is that you are all in the same situation and you are most probably all just as nervous as each other.

One particularly odd bit of university for me during the first few weeks has definitely been the independence. How do I work this washing machine? How long does it take to cook this pasta? Since Ive started university I have successfully burnt toast, pasta, cookies, all sorts; I have put a load of washing on without the detergent in and I have locked myself out of my flat but hey, its all a learning curve! Its a fun experience really because I can guarantee that there are hundreds of Freshers who have done all of those things too!

Another amazing part of university for me has been the friends that I have already made. You are meeting so many new people all the time at university from people in your flat/block to those in your lectures or clubs. Make the most of meeting these new people and chat to as many people as you can because it is a great feeling.

Overall my first few weeks of university have been a bit of a rollercoaster. I have had some lower points where Ive found it fairly tough but the good points have completely and utterly outweighed these.

A x

How I've settled in to uni accommodation

Moving away from home was an extremely daunting thought for me because I have never been away from home for longer than 10 days. Therefore, a hugely important thing for me was to make myself feel as at home as possible and a key way of doing this was to make my bedroom feel like home.

To make my room feel as much like home as possible, I ensured that I bought enough things with me to make me feel comfortable. This includes a lot of photos; my favourite pillows; some psychology books; my jewellery stand and some dreamcatchers. What you have to remember is that, although your actual bedroom may be back home, this is your bedroom for a year and this has to be as homely as you want it to be, in order to help you with any of those homesick nights.

Dont be embarrassed by anything you want to bring with you. Its your room so make it your own.

Im in a flat with six other people, one shower, two toilets and a basin in my bedroom. At first I was absolutely terrified by the thought of sharing a shower with six people but not once have I had to wait for the shower and its stayed remarkably clean! Similarly, the thought of a university kitchen filled me with absolute dread but it has stayed clean and tidy (with the occasional washing up that we might leave for the next day) and weve not had any problems!

I found it difficult to settle in on the first night because I didnt like being away from home but after a while you get so used to your surroundings, so used to your friends and your neighbours and so used to your university campus, that it begins to feel like a home from home.

A key factor in settling in well, for me, was making friends in my accommodation you become like a little family. I absolutely adore my flat. We are all very different characters but we all get along so well; we have good old natters in the kitchen when cooking dinner and we look out for each other. Id also say to definitely bring a door stop because my friends and I leave our doors open very regularly in order to have a chat and if your door is open then people will frequently stick their heads in and say hello, offer you a cup of tea and so on. Door stops are a must!

Settling in to university accommodation is scary and yes it can be challenging but its such a great experience and I am having the time of my life. I love my accommodation. I love my flat. I love my new room. Youve just got to give yourself time to settle in properly.

A x