Last week, we introduced you to Sam, Ikra, Tina and Isabelle – members of the Sounding Board who steer and shape the growth of the UK-wide community for estranged and care experienced students, including the online social network.
This week we meet Artie, Nyomi, Sam, Shaunna, and Tony, hear why the community is important to them and what they are doing to ensure recognition of and support for estranged and care experienced young people in wider society.
Twitter handles and web links are included, but if you can’t use these or want to know more about anyone’s work, just drop Ira an email and we’ll pass your message on!
I have been campaigning to raise awareness of and improve support for people who don’t have contact or support from their family, primarily those studying in higher education – throughout my academic career.
I founded Durham Estranged Students Network to campaign for change and build a community of estranged and care-experienced students in Durham a few years back. While we’ve been on hiatus since the pandemic, we hope to find a group of students to reform Durham’s network soon! In the meantime, I’m still working behind the scenes, giving feedback and guidance to staff about how best to support estranged and care-experienced students.
I’m in the final stages of my PhD at Durham University, and next year will begin writing up my thesis on the experiences of estranged students in higher education. I did a longitudinal research project with 10 estranged students across England, exploring the diversity of academic and wider student experiences as students without family support, and the different support avenues they access. I look forward to sharing more about my research in the future!
I also fundraise regularly for charities on Twitch, including for Become, who work with care-experienced young people. I am their #1 fundraising livestreamer, hosting multiple gaming events and raising over £6,500 over the past three years, and help to lead the Become Players stream team.
Nyomi Rose (@whatnyomidoes)
I first encountered the Unite Foundation* through their scholarship programme. When I was granted the scholarship in 2018, it marked a significant turning point in my life. I was given the chance to start anew, pursue my career aspirations, and receive an education without the burden of financial concerns. Since then, the Unite Foundation has made remarkable strides in further supporting care experienced and estranged students through various initiatives such as the Sounding Board, the Unite Foundation Birthday Party, and the Community. I joined the Sounding Board as an advocate and to lend my voice as a young, estranged individual, to help advance the Foundation’s mission in creating new initiatives, campaigns, and ideas to better assist those within the foundation and the broader community.
Currently, I am in the process of writing a book about my personal experience with estrangement, including my childhood, therapy, counselling, and coaching, and how these factors contributed to who I am today. Additionally, I am in the process of establishing my own charity to provide more comprehensive support to vulnerable, estranged youth. More details about this endeavour will be revealed as 2023 progresses.
*The Unite Foundation is lending its support to the growth of the community for estranged and care experienced students across the UK. The charity has dedicated team members, working with the student community and some funding and support available to students who would like to organise their own community event.
I’m care experienced and estranged myself, and when I started in higher education I felt so out of place. I’ve tried to take up opportunities to help foster a community for care experienced and estranged students because we deserve to feel secure and welcomed at uni & college.
As well as working with the Sounding Board, back in March I helped with the Unite Foundation’s Be Our Guarantor campaign. They are working to highlight the challenges care experienced and estranged students face when accessing uni accommodation, and I was really proud to be a part of it! I’ve also been President of the Care Experienced & Estranged Students Society at my university for over a year. We host events and try to support care experienced and estranged students in regular discussions with the uni. This May, our society even won the Widening Access award at the Strath Union Star Awards. I’ve loved being a part of the Sounding Board so far, exciting to see what we do next!
Shaunna Devine (@ShaunnaDevine8)
Hey, I am Shaunna. I am a care-experienced activist and a PhD student at LJMU in Psychology/Neuroscience. My PhD is exploring pathways to Social Connectedness in CEPs. My primary research interest is in the neurobiological outcomes for care experienced people. My research to date has explored the health and social impact of early life adversity, specifically within the care experienced community. My first ever published paper: “Childhood Adversity and Affective Touch Perception: A Comparison of United Kingdom Care Leavers and Non-care Leavers” can be found on Frontiers. This year I won The British Neuroscience Association 2023 festival prize for best student pre-registration poster, which was especially great as the BNA Festival was my first major conference.
I have been awarded the Greater Manchester Higher Education Award and Care Leaver of the Year Award, in recognition of my academic achievements and continuing efforts to improve the lives and prospects of others who are in care or care experienced. I enjoy actively raising awareness of the care system with media contributions in The Guardian and on the BBC and I have a passion for using research to improve the well-being of care experienced people, being part of the Sounding Board lets me continue this work.
Tony Anderson (@Tony_Anderson95)
I’ve always been passionate about this. Care experienced and estranged students make up a small part of the student population, but their journey is often more difficult than more traditional students (university straight from school) and their support needs are often higher than those not from this background and I want to see care experience and estranged being normalised and accepted without stigma.
This academic year, following a motion by me, Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council now recognises care experience as a protected characteristic. I also stood for election to become the next Vice President of Student Support at Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council: I was elected and will commence this work in July. As far as my knowledge goes, I will be the first open care experienced person to ever have held this role which is exciting as supporting care experience and estranged students is one of my priorities for the year 🙂
Previously to that I was also the Mental Health Equality Officer at the SRC and helped create the celebration lunch for students who are estranged or have care experience as we celebrate their achievements. I’ve also worked with Who Cares? Scotland, including helping with their annual Christmas dinner.
Twitter handles and web links for everyone have been included, but if you can’t use these or want to know more about anyone’s work, just drop Ira an email and we’ll pass your message on.