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Costello calls for designated staff members to help care leavers in college

The Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris been called on to introduce designated staff members (DSM) for care leavers in higher education.

Green Party TD for Dublin-South Central and spokesperson for justice, Patrick Costello said that a DSM would be “embedded into the college’s staff structure and would advise and guide on care leavers support needs throughout their learning journey, from pre-entry to their time studying.”

Speaking on the matter, he said: “Care leavers are an incredibly vulnerable cohort who, as such, deserve and require dedicated support relevant to their specific needs.

“International research suggests that young people with ‘care-experience’ typically have lower attainment and progress to higher education at lower rates than the majority of their peers.

“Whilst efforts have been made by some institutions to widen access and participation at third-level of under-represented groups, these efforts do not address the lack of social networks, digital poverty, accommodation concerns, and the fears and reluctancies care leaves have to build relationships and seek help.”

Deputy Costello says that care leavers may need support to thrive in the education system.

“For many care leavers, they will have had numerous changes in the professionals supporting them and may feel let down by past experiences by the time they enter higher education.

“As a result, they may not be confident in asking for support or advice about universities and courses, they feel be unsure about the financial and accommodation supports available, and they may find it hard to trust and build relationships leading them not to disclosing their care leaver status to fellow students or support staff for fear of prejudice.

“Many will have also experienced childhood poverty, trauma and disadvantage, which further exacerbates their marginalisation from higher education,” he said.

“I have written to the Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, asking him to introduce a DSM for care leavers in higher education.

“Numerous universities in the U.K., for example the University of Greenwich and the University of Portsmouth, have already introduced a DSM into their staff structure to support the transition into college for care leavers and to help them achieve success in their studies.

“We know that educational opportunity and attainment are critical to children’s overall wellbeing and progress to adulthood.

“Yet, at present, some children are being left behind due to lack of policy and legislative focus.

“Every intervention must be made to ensure all young people are given equal opportunity,” said Deputy Costello.

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