Outreach

 

As of 2015, there were over 9000 students classified by Student Loans Company as 'irreconcilably estranged from their parents.' Stand Alone's research shows that these students typically become estranged before their 18th birthday (79%) but worryingly, 76% of students had not had any contact with any social services or been under the guardianship of local authority care. This means there is a large number of estranged students who are vulnerable and have not received any tangible support.

Many estranged students have an incredible amount of resilience and have triumphed against the odds to start their journey through university education, with the hopes of graduating and improving their future. Students with a lack of family support typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds and need to feel supported whilst making a decision about university.

It is imperative that universities across the country make a visible effort to advertise their support and resources to prospective students. The everyday experience of an estranged young person is often an uncertain one, and in order to best engage these vulnerable students, universities need to be clear about the support available.

One of the best ways to effectively engage prospective estranged students is by appointing a dedicated member of staff to be a point of contact during the UCAS application process and the months up until the student' university experience begins. The student advisor can also be on hand to provide advice regarding Student Finance applications, finding accommodation and accessing counselling services.

Having a dedicated point of contact can really help to ease a student's mind, and allow them to feel prepared for university despite their family circumstances. This allows estranged students to be readily equipped with access to all the resources available to them, alleviating feelings of distress and anxiety during the first few weeks of university. This sets an estranged student up for a very positive university experience, and helps to remove many barriers to success.

One student, who dropped out of university due to a lack of support from their university, said the following: "I became estranged when I was 17, and fought really hard against all the experiences I faced to get to uni. I wish that I had an advisor at university, or at least one member of staff who knew what to say or where to signpost me to for advice. During my time at university I was constantly bounced from one member of staff to the next – it was like no one knew what to say or how to help me. The services seemed overwhelmed and like they didn't have time to help me through the complexity of my issues. I eventually left university because I couldn't cope – not one advisor of mine checked into see if I was okay."

The Pledge encourages all committed institutions to increase the visibility of the support they provide for estranged students throughout all their outreach work. There are many ways to do this; either communicating the support available for estranged students in outreach work in schools and colleges and ensure information is easily accessible to all. Another way to increase visibility and practice effective outreach is to foster relationships with local charities or youth clubs that provide services to vulnerable young people.

 

 

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