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CareTech Foundation, CareTech plc and the University of East London announce new plans to support care leavers in higher education and employment

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The CareTech Foundation (@CareTechFdn), in partnership with The University of East London (@UEL_News), has officially launched the CareTech Foundation Care Leavers Bursary Grant, the first of its kind, to provide both financial support and work experience opportunities to care leavers entering university.  

The scheme focuses on students studying for health and social care-related degrees. The new scheme has been established to address the massive under-representation of care leavers at university, with  only 6% of care leavers represented in higher education compared to 42% of their non-care-experienced peers.

At the launch event, held at UEL’s Docklands Campus last Wednesday night, five UEL students with care backgrounds were awarded the first round of grants. CareTech Foundation’s Foundation Manager, Tariq Raja, hosted the event while Professor Amanda Broderick the Vice Chancellor and President of UEL, and CareTech plc Executive Chairman, Farouq Sheikh OBE, delivered inspiring speeches. Also in attendance were Shabir Randeree CBE, Chancellor of UEL and Jonathan Freeman MBE, CEO of the CareTech Foundation.

At the event, Farouq Sheikh OBE also announced that CareTech plc had also signed up to the new Care Leaver Friendly Employer Charter created by the Care Leaver Covenant organisation.  This new scheme commits companies to a range of steps to help care leavers secure jobs. 

Katarina Blanco, Student Money and Rights Team (SMART) Advisor at UEL, shared a testimony, from one of the awarded UEL recipients; of what having a grant like this means to Care Leavers studying at university, saying:

 “Being a care leaver in higher education does have its struggles, but the staff at UEL have really supported me. From advice to bursaries, everything has been covered. Bursaries such as this [CareTech Foundation’s] have given me the financial freedom to be able to travel back and forth outside of London to campus, get the latest technology and buy my own copies of books for my courses. This is something I wouldn’t have been able to do alone.” 

Viktoria Tchibor, a care leaver who received care at By the Bridge, a subsidiary of CareTech PLC, and alumni of Kings College of London, spoke of her own experience as a care leaver and what financial help at university meant for her:

“For those young people to have access to something financially, it can create a foundation for them to choose whatever career they want and provides the freedom to have time to focus on their education and not having to worry about paying bills at university. You have time and space to be able to focus on what it is you went to university to do, which is to learn.”

The grant will offer a bursary of £1,000 a year to a student studying a health or social care course at university and will offer support to up to five young people at any one university per year, but these will be multi-year commitments to provide ongoing support through the student’s university careers. Any young people with a disability will receive an additional £250 per year and on graduation, an additional award of £250 will be made to celebrate the success of their commitment. 

UEL, which has one the largest populations of care leaver students in the country, will also work to actively promote the grant to incoming students from a care leaver background and report on their progress annually, allowing the CareTech Foundation to provide the best levels of support.

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Professor Amanda Broderick, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of East London, said: 

“We want to and do see our students thrive – both professionally and personally. For us, it is about developing skills for life, for work and for impact, underpinned by the resilience and strength. But it starts, for many, with money. Removing some of the financial burden and providing added support will give care leavers peace of mind and help them thrive at university and beyond. This is why we are delighted to help launch the new CareTech Foundation scholarship, which will provide a bursary to five care leaver students, making their student journey a little easier.”

Farouq Sheikh OBE, Executive Chairman of CareTech PLC, said:

“Providing financial support is only one aspect. We want to utilise our incredible staff at CareTech plc to help recipients build their career in care through this bursary scheme.  And, as a Group that employs over 11,000 people, we are committed to helping as many care-experienced young people as possible with jobs in our business as we recognise the amazing talent available but which is too often overlooked.”.

UEL and CareTech Foundation hope that this model will set an example for other care sector providers as it is sorely needed to address the low number of care leavers who attend and maintain their studies at university. With the national presence offered by CareTech PLC’s 550 sites, frontline work experience in a nurturing environment will provide confidence, comfort and security to the recipients of the grant.   

Attendees at the event included representatives from the Foundation’s Partnerships Grant, including the Prince’s Trust, OnSide Youth Zones, EY Foundation and the Care Leavers Covenant who CareTech Foundation have now joined, signalling a move to supporting young people not just in care but also continuing that commitment of support in life after care. Significantly, CareTech PLC has also become a signatory to the Care Leavers Covenant.

As the largest social care provider for adults and children across the UK, this is a notable step in the company’s commitment to supporting young people who are care experienced with employment opportunities in a sector they know intimately well. 

Jonathan Freeman MBE, CEO of the CareTech Foundation, said:

“The social care sector, which is at the front-line of providing care to young people, has a duty to help those young people to flourish as independent adults. Through this new grant scheme and through our commitment to the Care Leavers Covenant, we hope other care and educational leaders will adopt this model in the future.

By providing financial support and work experience, we can ensure university is not about graduating with a degree, but also frontline work experience to boost confidence and provide a platform of opportunity so that these young people can become sector leaders and represent their individual and collective experiences in a way that makes all of us proud.” 

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