Action for Children helps care-experienced people stay the course – Paul Carberry

In January we were pleased to host the First Minister, ­Nicola Sturgeon, as she visited our STAY project in Glasgow. STAY ­supports students from a care-experienced background to succeed in college, whether that is through practical or emotional help.

First Minister Backs New Service for Care-Experienced College Students Pictured Paul Carberry Action for Children's Director for Scotland and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon talk to Students and STAY Workers The first students to benefit from a new service aimed at improving outcomes for care experienced young people at college met the First Minister yesterday. The students from Glasgow's three colleges and West College Scotland opened up to Nicola Sturgeon about their personal experiences, as she backed an Action for Children project aimed at improving outcomes for care-experienced young people attending college. 23-year-old Courage Eregbu studies accountancy at City of Glasgow College and is a budding musician. He is one of the first students to benefit from Action for Children's STAY programme and performed a Lewis Capaldi song for the First Minister. Courage said: "I play my own music, but I wanted the First Minister to recognise the song.Lewis is obviously Scottish so I thought she would enjoy it. "I

This service is needed. We know that care-experienced young people face a disadvantage. Government ­figures show that 93 per cent of young people in Scotland who left school went on to a positive destination – such as college, university, training or employment.

Unfortunately, just 76 per cent of children in care had that same ­positive destination – a gap of 17 per cent. Furthermore, figures from the Scottish Funding Council regarding successful completion of full-time further education courses at college show there is a gap of 15.6 per cent between care-experienced students and their peers.

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Action for Children has a strong history of supporting and working with care experienced young people. We have projects across Scotland aimed at providing skills and learning opportunities, which develop confidence in young people, so that they can begin the next stage of their learning journey. However, some of the young people who we have supported, who went on to college, have come back to us to say they didn’t complete their course.

Paul Carberry is the Action for Children Director for Scotland.

Sadly, this scenario is all too ­familiar. Despite the availability of traditional student support services at colleges, it seemed to us that a vital support network was missing for care-experienced young people.

To help these young people make the most of their potential and talent, we have worked in partnership with the colleges to design our STAY service. On her visit, the First Minister met a number of students who we currently support and heard a range of challenges they have faced. This included lack of support in school

Our STAY service is about providing community-based support for students on issues that often occur outside the college campus. We know these can negatively impact on their college life, whether that be housing matters, family and relationship problems or mental health and wellbeing concerns.

To date, we have supported 96 young people. Of that group, five dropped out of college but we signposted those young people to our employability services here in Glasgow. STAY aims to provide a safe space for students to be open and honest about their situation so we can better understand them and give them the practical, emotional and flexible support they need to ­succeed at college. When I met support workers, I was pleased to hear them say they wouldn’t turn away students not identified as care-experienced but who have chaotic lifestyles that could cause them issues with their studies. At Action for Children, we wouldn’t turn anyone away who needed our support.

I am really looking forward to STAY becoming an integral part of the ­student support provision – the success of the service, will be care- experienced students fulfilling their potential. Colleges wishing to find out more about STAY and how it can ­benefit their students can email [email protected]

Action for Children Scotland works directly with more than 20,000 children, young people, parents and carers each year. With 87 services in Scotland, we are in communities where you live and work. We help transform the lives of thousands of children and young people each year and we’ve been doing so for more than 60 years. For more information, visit www.actionforchildren.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @actn4childrScot.

Paul Carberry is the Action for Children director for Scotland.

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