Unite Foundation

Our Director, Eluned Parrott introduces the latest newsletter…

Welcome to the latest issue of the Unite Foundation newsletter.

Over the past six months, supporting care-leavers and estranged young people has been high on the policy agenda across the UK. It’s an important opportunity to make sure that the voice of these young people is heard, and as a Foundation, we’re proud to be a part of a network of organisations promoting that work.

It seems to me that we are at a critical moment to drive real improvements for care-leavers and estranged young people at university. In Scotland, the government has pledged to guarantee university places for care-leavers in a clear signal that improved access is expected. In England, the Office for Students has published guidance for providers on improving access for care-leavers and estranged students at university. I was glad to see the students’ voice front and centre, with a student survey conducted by the Unite Foundation and StandAlone providing some of the baseline data for the OfS’s guidance. I’m also pleased to see that NNECL are developing a kitemark for English institutions to help them refine and develop their support for care-leavers, and as a Foundation, we’re happy to have joined the steering committee for this project.

Of course, getting into university is the first step in a chain of support that universities and third sector partners provide. This is why as a Foundation, our focus is not only on policy, but also on active and direct support to individual students. We are now welcoming our 8th cohort of scholars into the Unite Foundation scheme – there’s a fascinating analysis of our applications data later in this newsletter. One of the key themes that I draw from that survey is the difference that having a safe, stable home makes in terms of our scholars’ emotional wellbeing. Our applicants tell us that this stability reduces stress and anxiety they might otherwise experience and provides a platform for them to build a successful university life, socially and academically.

We’re keen to develop what we do to make sure that it meets the needs of our scholars and gives them the best possible chance of building the future life that they want. Over the past year we’ve been talking to our scholars about the leap from university into an uncertain future – and this is a theme I expect to see explored in a major research study we’ve commissioned from Sheffield Hallam University (to be published later this year). In the meantime, we have been working to increase the support we give to our graduating scholars in terms of work experience, CV development and paid placements.

Finally, as we welcome our scholars to their new homes this September, it is right that our focus is on making every one of them feel at home. To that end, this summer we launched a fundraising campaign to provide “Welcome Home” packs in every new scholar’s room. The packs have kitchen utensils, bedding, towels and other essentials in them to make sure that each empty room becomes a home.

I hope you enjoy reading about our work,

Eluned Parrott