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Care leavers need help with university choices, says leading charity

Free handbook available by download from The Who Cares? Trust

More young people leaving care should be encouraged to study in higher education and supported to stay in it and not drop out, according to national charity The Who Cares? Trust.

While about 38 per cent of 18 and 19 year olds are in higher education, that figure falls to six per cent for care leavers – a figure the charity, which supports and campaigns for children in care and young care leavers, wants to see increase.

The Trust has now launched its H.E. Handbook for Care Leavers 2014, an online guide to the range of support available to them from more than 140 universities and colleges across England and Scotland.

It includes details of bursaries and grants, outreach work and welfare and accommodation support.  The charity hopes it will help care leavers and professionals who work with them to take into account the specialised support for care leavers on offer from some institutions and make informed choices about where to study.

The guide, which is free, shows:

The handbook details the support on offer, including care leaver bursaries, fee waivers, outreach work and the help they provide during the application process. 

Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of The Who Cares? Trust, said:

"The very low numbers of young people from care who go to university – compared with other young people – is a national disgrace. 

"For those who do get there, research shows that there are a number of stresses which can lead to them dropping out.  Chief among these worries are shortage of money, fear of debt, psychological problems arising from care and pre-care experiences, lack of emotional support and difficulty with academic work, sometimes attributable to gaps in earlier schooling.

"There is plenty of dedicated support available from universities and colleges for care leavers which would help to keep them in higher education, but most care leavers simply aren't aware of it.  We created this handbook to let them know the wide range of financial and practical help they can get from the institutions where they study."

As well as individual entries from 140 universities and colleges, the guide includes details of wider funding available for care leavers in England and Scotland and a jargon buster to make the system easy to navigate.

The H.E. Handbook for Care Leavers is available to download for free from The Who Cares? Trust's website and there are no fees for colleges and universities to be included.  To download a free copy, visit www.thewhocarestrust.org.uk/hehandbook

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