In conjunction with EPIC, the national voluntary body supporting care leavers, Munster Technological University (MTU) have announced the establishment of a university-wide initiative in their campuses in Cork and Kerry to support students who are care leavers. The term ‘care leaver’ is used to refer to any adult who spent time in out-of-home care as a child e.g. in foster care, residential care, or other arrangements outside the immediate or extended family. While successive government policy has focused on eradicating educational disadvantage, research has consistently highlighted that young people with ‘care-experience’ have lower educational attainment and progress through education at lower rates than many other socio-economically disadvantaged students. Care leavers are some of the most vulnerable young people in society and often have to make the transition from care to independence without the support from parents and wider support networks that other young people rely on.
Recent MTU graduate and care leaver Sarah O’Brien, stated that “as a result of having grown up in care and experiencing an unrelenting cycle of trauma, grief and upheaval , I lacked in self-confidence and had zero belief in myself that I would succeed in third level education. Having that extra support while pursuing third level education can make the world of a difference to a care leaver. I am now working in a mental health rehabilitation unit as a social care worker and love every minute of it. I believe an initiative such as this would be a much-needed support for people who have been through the care system.”
In this context, MTU have appointed two senior members of staff, Dr Tom O’Connor (Cork campus) and Dr Patrick McGarty (Kerry campus) to act as personal support advocates for care leavers to complement the existing range of student support services on both campuses. Welcoming the initiative, Professor Maggie Cusack, President of MTU stated “We at the Munster Technological University are very pleased to launch this novel initiative for care leavers attending our undergraduate and postgraduate suite of courses. Both campuses of the university in Cork and Kerry have proud track records of working with care leavers in their journey through higher education. This new initiative at the university will complement our existing range of Student Services including health, chaplaincy, careers, and counselling to support students through their education journey.”