26 June 2019

Students with care experience need access to practical, emotional and financial support

CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection based at the University of Strathclyde, has today (Wednesday 26 June 2019) published the findings of Scotland's first nation-wide survey of care experienced students in Scotland's colleges and universities.

Carried out on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), this research aimed to get a better understanding of the factors that can be a barrier to, or can enable, care experienced students going to, being at, and staying at college and university in Scotland.

Students reported that access to practical, emotional and financial support based on their individual, and often complex needs, is crucial; and that access to supportive services should be consistent, enduring, and without discrimination on the basis of age, type of care experience or study setting.

These experiences of over 500 students have shaped new recommendations for practical, solution focused actions that organisations should take to strengthen existing provision and make improvements in areas that students have identified. This includes support in the form of year round, consistent accommodation; financial support such as the care experienced bursary; and the advice and support services from student advisors which were found to be helpful and can support care experienced students to access and sustain college and university.

Mature students over 26 indicated that whilst they had 'aged out' of formal supports and the care experienced bursary, the complexity of their circumstances, relating to their time in care, meant that continued access to informed and good quality practical, financial and emotional support, advice and guidance was very important to their ability to sustain study.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Professor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director of CELCIS said:

"This is an important new report: it gives, for the first time, a comprehensive account of the experiences of going to and being at college and university from the perspective of care experienced students in Scotland. It's essential we listen to what they tell us in order to consider what additional steps educational institutions and other organisations can take to enhance their experience as a student.

"We hope too that by highlighting areas of concern, such as difficulties applying for funding and the difference between students coping, and being comfortable financially; accommodation challenges; and struggles with academic demands in course content and structure, these difficulties can be alleviated by ensuring more tailored support and solutions that give the best chance of thriving throughout their studies."

Over half of care experienced students who responded said they had considered leaving their course for a number of reasons including academic expectations, financial strain, lack of belonging and support, sensitivities triggered by academic topics, and competing commitments.

Academic expectations can be overwhelming for some care experienced students, who can struggle to manage workload with limited support.

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council said:

"The results of this survey build on the anecdotal evidence we have gained over a number of years. They provide us with a solid base from which, collectively, we can make a real difference and bring about positive and sustainable change for care-experienced students."