Ticking the care experience box: what happens next?
Some students are uncertain about ticking the care experience box because they don’t really know what happens to that information once they submit their UCAS application. In this case study from Kingston University, Beth Taswell, Access and Support Advisor, explains how they use this information to connect prospective students to the support and information they may need to help them make a successful transition to higher education – and right through to graduation.
'For many applicants with experience of local authority care, going to university can be a fresh start. They may be moving to a new area as well as a new learning environment where nobody knows them or anything about their past. On the UCAS application form there is an opportunity for applicants to disclose that they have spent time in local authority care, but many choose not to because of the uncertainty of what is done with that information.
I am one of two Access and Support Advisors at Kingston University that works on our KU Cares scheme – a scheme that supports care experienced and estranged students, young adult carers, and asylum seekers. My role as the designated contact for students with an experience of local authority care is to support students from the point of application, through to graduation.
Every February (after the initial UCAS deadline), we get in touch with our Admissions Team at Kingston and request a report of everyone who had made an application to Kingston University, and had ticked ‘Yes’ to the question about whether they had spent time in local authority care. Using this list, We’ll get in touch with everyone using the email address they provided on their application to highlight the support available for care leavers and care experienced students through KU Cares. We repeat this process multiple times through the spring and summer to ensure that care experienced applicants are aware of the support they can be eligible for and how to access it.
In these emails we encourage applicants to sign up to the KU Cares scheme as early as possible. The sooner that they sign up and we’ve confirmed their eligibility, the sooner we can support them. Before they are even enrolled at Kingston, we can prioritise them a place on our Head Start programme that offers support in the transition to university life. We would also work with students individually to make sure their Student Finance is sorted, local authority support is in place, help them arrange accommodation in our halls of residence, and just support them to feel more prepared to start at Kingston University. We can also offer advocacy in the admissions process where relevant.
We wouldn’t share any information about care-experienced applicants with other university departments without the explicit consent from the applicant themselves. For any KU Cares student, we would always have a discussion with them before any information was ever shared (normally as a part of admissions advocacy or for the purpose of allocating bursaries), so they would know what is being shared and why.
Unfortunately, if we don’t know that an applicant has spent time in care, we’re not able to offer them any of this support. The choice to disclose is completely up to the individual, but they could miss out on a lot of that early support if they don’t tick the box.'