Across this week we will be publishing a series of posts on the topic of care experienced students.
We will get the thoughts of Robert Foster, a Corporate Parenting Officer at Who Cares? Scotland who delivered training to our staff, Ashley Cameron, a care leaver ambassador, and Amy-Beth Miah, a current student at Ayrshire College.
To kick things off, Helen Canning, Director of Student Services at the College, explains how Ayrshire College supports care experienced young people.
I was lucky enough to be in the first group of college staff in Scotland to go through training on being a Corporate Parent delivered by Who Cares? Scotland at Ayrshire College.
Before the training I knew that, historically, the outcomes for young people brought up in care have been poor. Many care experienced people find themselves homeless after leaving care, struggle to find employment, have a lack of education options compared to others in society, experience poor mental health and are disproportionately represented in the prison system.
What I didn’t fully appreciate was the significant impact that day-to-day things that many of us take for granted have on children and young people who are in care.
One of the issues that care experienced young people face is ‘stigma’. I once met a young man who told me ‘people think I’m in care because I’ve done something wrong, that it’s my fault’. We need to work together to change this perception.
Now that we have a fuller understanding of the types of issues facing care experienced people, we are working with them, the Student Association, Who Cares? Scotland and other corporate parent partners to develop our Corporate Parenting Plan.
The College aims to provide opportunities to improve the life chances of all of our students and to make a positive contribution to our communities. We want to support care experienced young people in our communities to achieve to the same outcomes as their peers. Part of our plan will be to challenge stigma and stereotypes to ensure that care experienced young people feel comfortable disclosing their status, and access all of the support available to them.
To support this aim, the College has joined the ‘Pledge to Listen’ campaign which directly tackles the discrimination and stigma faced by looked after children and young people, as well as care leavers.
Our work with the Student Association is vital to our understanding of the barriers facing young people and developing solutions. The Student Association has been instrumental in arranging our first Care Leavers Forum in the College and we hope to build on this over the coming months.
The College, like all ‘new parents’, is at the beginning of an exciting journey where we will support and care for our young people. We will learn from them, challenge them to be all they can be, and enjoy the pride their achievements bring.