In conversation with Leeds Arts University’s Care Leaver Support

Martell Baines, Leeds Arts University’s Progression Manager and Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) Outreach Officer, talks to Anne-Marie Watkinson, the University’s nominated Care Leaver Support, about her role and what support she can offer care-experienced students while they are studying, or if considering studying at University.

Martell Baines (MB): Please can you describe your role at Leeds Arts University. 

Anne-Marie Watkinson (A-MW): Hi, my name’s Anne-Marie. I’m the named contact for care experienced students, and students who are estranged from their families, who are currently studying at Leeds Arts University, or who are thinking of studying at Leeds Arts University. It’s part of my role as a Student Welfare Advisor in the Student Support Team.

I am here as a point of contact for any students who are care experienced. I can provide practical advice and support, I can also signpost students to other staff in Admissions, Academic and Student support or to other members of the Welfare Team. I can provide emotional support, if a student would like someone to talk too, it really depends on what the student wants in that moment.

It’s important that students know that they’ve got someone that they can talk to in the University.

MB: What do most students approach you to ask?  

A-MW: I think it really depends on the individual student and what information they’re wanting. Students approach me for help when they are thinking of coming to the University or when they are getting ready to start a course, as well as all the way through their time studying at the University.

We can signpost to other organisations that also provide support in Leeds, and within the university as well. We work with lots of different teams within the university for example accommodation, finance, academic support, as well as connecting up with academic staff, if that is something that’s wanted. I think it depends on what the individual student requires at that time. We know that some care experienced students do not want to have contact – and that is fine as well.

MB: Can students just drop in to see you in the Student Welfare Team office, or do they have to book at an appointment? 

A-MW: Whichever is easiest for the student. They can drop in to the Student Welfare Office to talk to anyone from the team. They can also email me directly and we can arrange a meeting, either face to face, or I can also answer any questions via email. Alternatively, we can set up a video call or telephone call.

MB: What happens when an applicant ticks the care experienced box on the UCAS application form?  

A-MW: Usually, I will contact the student to introduce myself. I will provide some information about support that is available, and provide information about the care leavers bursary or further education financial support.

Sometimes a student will contact me directly, or someone might get in contact to ask for information on their behalf. I’ll respond to their email and set up a meeting to have a chat. We can talk through any issues or worries and I can answer any questions that the student has and be a point of contact while they are starting university.

MB: What financial support can Care Experienced students’ access? 

A-MW: For any students, who have any questions about finance and funding, or are worried about this I am very happy to have a chat to talk through any worries, or just talk through the kinds of bursaries that are available for students that are enrolled at the University.

For higher education (HE) students at the university, there is the Care Leavers bursary, which for this academic year, was £3000 a year, it is paid in three instalments of £1000, one at the beginning of the academic year, and then at two other points during the academic year.

Higher Education students at Leeds Arts University can also receive the Creative practice support bursary, which last academic year was £250 in the first year, and support for the cost of materials which was £110 (paid in two £55 instalments).

If Higher education students are experiencing financial difficulties during the academic year, there is also the Hardship fund, which is a discretionary fund that they can apply for. The Student Welfare team can provide support, in terms of applying and completing any paperwork that’s needed.

For further education (FE) students, who are 16-18 years old and care experienced, there’s the Vulnerable student’s bursary, which this year is £40 a week. There’s also other kinds of bursaries and other support for further education students to access, for example, financial support for travel, books and materials. There is also a bursary and a hardship fund available for students who are 19 years old+.

MB: What other support can a Care experienced student receive at University? 

A-MW: As I have stated, within my team in Student Welfare, we can provide emotional support. We can provide advice, we can help with form filling and other kinds of practical support.

In our wider welfare support team, we have a Counselling team and they provide short term counselling – they are all professionally accredited counsellors and psychotherapists. The Counselling team also run online and group workshops for students.

There are Mental Health Advisors, who can provide support with offering coping strategies and making things a bit easier in the here and now.

We work very closely with the Academic and Student Support team, for study skills support or mentor support, if required, and help applying for Disabled Students Allowance.

When a student is applying to university and with securing accommodation in Leeds the Admissions team can provide information and support.

The University Finance team can provide further information about the bursaries that are available, normally through talking with me, and there are the Course tutors who provide one to one pastoral support.

For careers and employment planning the Careers, Employability and Enterprise team provide support, run workshop sessions and one to one careers consultations.

A student can approach the Students Union, who run student-led activities throughout the year, they can offer further support and also signpost to the best approach in all aspects. They have a Buddy Scheme called ‘Hey Buddy’ that enables meeting up with another student which can be signed up to, before they start at the University if they wish.

MB: Regarding accommodation, what help can you provide? 

A-MW: There are 365-day halls accommodation, so a year-round place to stay for students can be arranged, the Admissions team who deals with accommodation allocation can provide students with information about that. The Student Welfare team are also available for students, if they want to have a chat about private rented sector accommodation, any issues in terms of accommodation, guarantors and securing accommodation throughout their time at Leeds Arts University.

MB: What recommendations would you give to a care experienced student who’s considering applying to study at university? 

A-MW: Going to university can be an amazing experience and a brilliant opportunity to study something that you love and to develop your skills in a creative and innovative environment. University can be life changing for some students.

At Leeds Arts University, I feel that all staff care about supporting students and making sure that students have the best student experience they can have. I feel Leeds Arts University is a really creative, caring and kind environment.

Sometimes starting university, or at moments during your time here, things might feel overwhelming, or you might want some advice and support. If you do need support, while at LAU, then you can get in contact with me, or get in contact with the Student Welfare team to talk about how you are feeling, or any worries you are having.

We also understand, that for some students, you may not want to get in contact with us, or you might only want to get in contact with us for one-off practical support – and that is fine. We are there to provide support that make things a little bit easier and answer any questions that you have.


Find out more about what support the University offers to care leavers.