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Care leavers can inspire others

As thousands of students begin university this month, Bridgend County Borough Council would like to wish luck to all of its care leavers who will be embarking on the latest chapter in their lives.

Three new care leavers will start university courses this month, and if they need any inspiration as they begin their studies they should look no further than Rebecca Li, Amie Smith and Holly Manning.

The trio are all care leavers who are shining examples to others in care.

Twenty-four-year-old Rebecca is entering the second year of her degree in Accountancy at the University of South Wales, while Amie, also 24, will graduate with a Masters in Working with Adults and Young Offenders from the same university this month, and Holly, 21, is about to start the fourth year of her Accountancy degree in Swansea.

Having been looked after by a care home since she was 14, Rebecca is extremely grateful for the support she has been given to help with her higher education studies by Bridgend County Borough Council.

She said: “I just want care leavers to know that they aren’t underprivileged and that they are able to achieve. They may just need a bit more support than others, but they will certainly get it. The support that I have been given as a care leaver, both financially and emotionally, has been second to none.”

Holly had been in the care system since birth, spending time at a number of different care homes and fostering placements in the Bridgend County Borough and Somerset areas. Her experiences at such a young age have left her feeling “like I have lived lots of different lives already” and she is thriving at university.

Amie was cared for by a mixture of fostering placements and care homes from her early teens onwards, and is particularly thankful for the help she has given by the council to balance studying around her own childcare commitments.

In addition to Rebecca, Amie and Holly, six other local care leavers will be resuming university courses this month.

This local authority has, for many years, provided young care leavers with financial assistance to attend university and higher education courses.

As corporate parents, we want to give young people leaving our care as strong a start as possible, and wish everyone the best of luck with their studies this year. The way that Rebecca, Amie and Holly are continuing to overcome the challenges they face in life is inspiring and I wish them well.

Councillor Phil White, the council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help

Bridgend County Borough Council provides the necessary financial support that students need while also recognising the importance for all care leavers to learn how to manage their money responsibly, just like their peers.

All care leavers are helped with their applications for a Tuition Fee Loan which they (like all other students) only start to pay back once they earn a salary over £25,000. The care leavers will also receive a Welsh Government Living Costs Grant of £8,100 a year which can be used to cover accommodation and living costs and doesn’t need to be paid back.

They also have the option of taking out an additional £900 loan should they require it, while the council provides each of its care leavers with an allowance of £25 per week during term time as well as a bursary in addition to the grants they are entitled to access.

The £667 bursary is paid at the completion of each academic year (£2,000 over three years) to support the student during their summer vacation.

A ‘start up’ grant is also offered to help the student buy the basics for independent university living such as bedding, kitchen utensils and a laptop. If a student finds themselves in particularly difficult personal circumstances that are impacting on their studies then the council can also make additional discretionary payments.

Rebecca Li, Holly Manning and Amie Smith are shining examples for other care leavers who are starting university life this month. They are pictured here with Councillor Charles Smith (Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration) and Bridgend County Borough Council Leader, Councillor Huw David.

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