Unite Foundation

Supporting care experienced and estranged students in HE – responding to COVID-19

The Unite Foundation exists to support care experienced and estranged students through university and our support extends beyond the provision of a home, we’re here to ensure our scholars are safe and secure and can get the best out of their university experience whatever that might throw at them. It can often throw the odd curve ball but it’s safe to say Covid-19 may be the biggest and most disruptive curve ball any of us have experienced so far.

It goes without saying that all of our scholars have a secure place to live during this time but that’s just one of many concerns that all students without family support have.

As schools and universities closed and we began ‘social distancing’, we got in touch with our scholars to see how they were doing and find out their biggest concerns to see what we could help them with. It will come as no surprise that money (or the potential lack of it) was their biggest worry.

As we entered lockdown, the Unite Foundation joined forces with NNECL, Stand Alone, Become and Spectra, forming a Covid-19 response group for care experienced and estranged students, and took the survey out to a wider group where this response was echoed.

The majority of the student population relies on casual employment in bars, pubs, restaurants and retail, all shut down on lockdown. With students being unable to access benefits, their lifeline has been quickly cut off, reducing their ability to pay their rent, feed themselves and buy essential items.

As the majority of students went home to their families, our scholarship students remained safe in their student room with free rent, warmth and WIFI but that’s just one piece of a complex puzzle and certainly not the case for all students without family support.

Together with our response team partners, we’re calling on the government to recognise that the issue of financial instability – along with other key concerns care leavers and estranged students experience all year round – has been hugely exacerbated by the outbreak of Covid-19 and to understand these are desperate times for students who are at greater risk of homelessness and don’t have the support networks many of us take for granted.

We’ve called on the government to follow in Scotland’s footsteps and provide an emergency support grant to all care experienced and estranged students; we need to ensure everyone is able to stay safe, secure and in good health in these unprecedented times.

You can download the report here: