One tick that could change a life

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The Fostering Network Northern Ireland is today highlighting the fact that care experienced young people are in danger of missing out on the chance of individualised support while at university, as the charity launches its annual Tick the Box awareness campaign today in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.

By making sure they ‘Tick the Box’ on their UCAS or Further Education application form saying they are care experienced, care leavers can access a range of additional support varying from financial support to help with student accommodation. 

Speaking at the campaign launch, Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network Northern Ireland said: ’The number of care leavers starting university has doubled over the past three years, but we know there is much more room for growth. The Tick the Box initiative helps address barriers to accessing further and higher education and has resulted in young people in Northern Ireland being able to access additional support to continue their educational journey. There’s no stigma attached to ticking the box, but it does open the door for the additional help and support care experienced young people may benefit from at university.  

’We’re particularly delighted that all further and higher education institutions in Northern Ireland as well as the Health and Social Care Board are so supportive of this initiative – together we can help care experienced young people to achieve the future they deserve.’

Deirdre Coyle from the Health and Social Care Board said: ’As a corporate parent we want all children and young people in care to succeed in education and to gain the skills and qualifications that will help them secure employment, be economically independent and have a good quality of life in adulthood.   

‘”Ticking the Box” on their application forms for further and higher education colleges and institutions is an assured means of promoting, engaging and maximising the support that is so readily available to young people in and leaving care.

'We continue to work in partnership with a collective of key agencies, FE colleges, Universities, HSC Trusts, Careers Service, DE, The Fostering Network, VOYPIC and Include Youth to maximise supports and opportunities that will assist young people to engage in and sustain further and higher education.'

Case Study - Matthew 

Going to university was always something Matthew aspired to, but never believed it was achievable due to the negative perceptions around children in care. When Matthew was 16 he received good GCSE Results and started to consider university as an option for his future. 

Matthew received a lot of support in his journey to, and throughout his time in university. His foster carer, Ruth, was always encouraging and supported him through his GCSEs and A-Levels. He received GCSE maths tuition and a laptop for coursework through The Fostering Network's Fostering Achievement scheme as well as driving lessons which helped with his journey to university and later to work. 

Throughout his degree Matthew continued to live with Ruth. He also ticked the box on his UCAS form which enabled him to receive an annual bursary from Ulster University and access support from their dedicated care leaver worker. 

Matthew has now graduated and is currently in a graduate management role with a leading retailer. Matthew says: 'I'm glad I ticked the box. The support I received by doing this enabled me to graduate from Ulster University and get a good job which I am flourishing in.'