How pathway planning helps care-leavers to learn

27 October 2014

In the first of a series of blogs for National Care Leavers Week, we hear from Amy, a care-leaver from the south-east of England, who is currently studying for a Masters Degree. 

I was taken into care at the age of fourteen, after an entire childhood of watching my parents sink further into alcoholism, which lead to domestic violence and emotional abuse. My brother and I were removed before our little sister, who was only one at the time. We were placed by the local authority in the care of our aunt. We spent the next few months waiting to find out what would happen to our little sister, and after a particularly violent argument she was also placed in the care of our aunt. Just two weeks later our step-father died, and our mother was placed in prison. I haven’t had contact with her since.

It’s been almost eight years since I first entered the care system, and although I haven’t properly lived there for four years, I still go back to stay with my aunt and sister almost every weekend. However, living under the care system hasn’t always been easy, especially in the first few years. Before my eighteenth birthday my aunt fought for every aspect of support we got, even gaining leaving care support became a struggle as the local authority attempted to say that my brother and I were never in fact in care. It took a long time, but luckily the courts decided in our favour, and my brother and I were given a full leaving care package.

A big part of the support for me was the use of pathway planning. Twice a year my personal adviser and I would meet for a coffee and discuss any changes in my situation, my goals for the next six months and anything that I wanted or needed that could help me towards that goal. Although I wouldn’t say that the pathway plan was the reason for me getting into higher education (I would have found a way to fund university no matter what my situation) the extra support made available to me from pathway planning made things significantly easier. During my undergraduate degree my accommodation was entirely paid for, as well as all my books and course materials. If there was anything that could help towards my career goals these were also funded. I was able to volunteer without worrying about travelling costs and take courses that boosted my CV. Pathway planning also meant that I was able to move to France for a year and begin studying my Masters Degree without the worry of getting a bank loan.

Although the pathway plan ensured that any support I needed was placed in writing, it was my personal adviser who helped me to realise what I needed and what was available to me. But more than that, he found ways to get me things that were previously unprecedented. Thanks to his work the fees for my Masters Degree are being paid in full when I had previously feared I wouldn’t be able to afford to do it. I have also received a lot of support from my universities during both my degrees. My undergraduate university (Brunel University) in particular was fantastic. I received a number of grants to help with the cost of living, I was ensured on campus accommodation every year, I was given an emotional support network, support in my learning as some aspects of my education were affected in my childhood and I was given the chance to help other people from care who were considering joining the university. Volunteering with charities such as The Who Cares? Trust also gave me an emotional support base and an outlet to feel like I was making some good out of my bad experiences.

My care-leaver support has ensured that I have been able to truly make the most out of my higher education and the beginning of my adult life. I have had an amazing few years in education and I’m excited to continue learning and growing.Next year I’ll be finishing my Masters Degree and completing a Traineeship in a leading library in London. After that, who knows? Right now everything is coming up roses, and I’m happy to wait and see where life is going to take me.

How has pathway planning helped your learning? Or has a lack of understanding about what pathway planning is or a lack of support during pathway planning prevented you from achieving?We are interested to hear about your experiences – please let us know in the Comments section below.