Independent living transitions for care-experienced young people
Many students starting Higher Education (HE) have the support of a family while they adapt to living independently and away from home for the first time. Care-experienced students, however, lack this emotional and financial “safety net”. Foster carers may not be able to support a care-experienced student in either respect and, when compared with other students, that lack of support can put pressure on the transition to independent living. This is compounded if the student isn’t sure who to turn to if they need help.
Some of the most important ways to ease independent living transitions are research and preparation. The things care-experienced students need to prepare for can differ vastly from their peers, and sometimes what might seem to be small details for other students can be priorities for them. For instance, when moving to HE, care-experienced students may not have essential items for living alone, such as bedding or kitchen equipment. Many HE providers offer welcome packs for students, including these items, to welcome care-experienced students to their new accommodation.
For new students there are many things that need to be considered, especially early on such as timetabling, module selection, making new friends, and signing up to clubs and societies. This can lead to a staggering amount of information so preparing can alleviate some cognitive load when getting settled in. For anything a student doesn’t have access to it could help to look for the nearest supermarkets, home stores or other retail locations ahead of time to pick up items when they arrive without having to transport it or find new locations.
In order to ease the social transition to HE, many providers offer specific events for care-experienced students, such as bespoke social activities. These are designed to help build a sense of community with other students who may have had similar experiences or challenges reaching HE.
To really ease the transition, reaching out to the HE provider’s care-leaver contact in advance can let students know all the support available ahead of time (contact details can usually be found on the provider’s dedicated care-experienced student webpage). This can let them plan around the support offer to make the transition as smooth so possible.
Dominic House, GHWY Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer