Universities urged to tackle isolation among care leavers at Christmas

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Universities are being urged to ensure they step up support for care leavers staying in student accommodation during the Christmas holidays.

Some universities have organised online meet-ups for students. Picture: Adobe Stock
Some universities have organised online meet-ups for students. Picture: Adobe Stock

The plea has been made by care leaver groups and charities to ensure students with experience of care, as well as young people unable to return home due to family health reasons, are being supported during the festive period.

An open letter to university vice-chancellors has been written by groups, including the Care Leaver Covenant, its delivery partner Spectra and the charities Become and Stand Alone, calling for measures to combat isolation.

Recommendations include ensuring access to libraries, labs and studios as they are a “invaluable spaces for students to meet and spend time with others”.

There also needs to be clear communication around Covid-19 testing, the letter adds.

“As friends and fellow students prepare to leave university, many without definite dates of return, remainer students are likely to feel isolated,” said Care Leaver Covenant advisory board chair Mark Rogers.

“With simple but decisive action, a strong community can be fostered over the winter break to ensure this sector of the student population is supported.”

Among good practice highlighted by the vovenant is the work by one of its signatories Kingston University, which has set up a care leaver scheme called KU Cares.

Through KU Cares the university is focusing on virtual events to tackle isolation, this includes online “meet ups” and festive surprises being sent.

“The festive period can be particularly challenging for those without families to go home to and this will be made harder this year due to the pandemic,” said Kingston vice-chancellor Professor Steven Spier.

“Therefore, the support and sense of community that we strive to offer through our KU Cares programmes becomes all the more important. That is why we have made every effort to adapt and to ensure our students are supported during this time.

“This year, we are working more intensively on a one-to-one basis with students, to ensure that they are in contact with the right support services, and are aware of the support they can access over the winter break.”

The Department for Education funded Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by private, public and voluntary organisations to provide support for care leavers aged 16 to 25 to help them to live independently.

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