The content on this page has been created by Care Leavers working with the West Sussex County Council to create the Leaving Care Local Offer. All content from the local offer can be found on our main website or you can download the PDF below.
Hello. My name is Michelle, and I am a West Sussex County Council care leaver. I entered care at 5-years of age and began my transition into independent living at 18 years old. I am now 23 years old, studying medicine at King’s College London university and still receiving support from WSCC. I see my personal advisor every few months where we have a catch-up over coffee or lunch, and I also collaborate with the Leaving Care Team and Children in Care Council to help improve services for care-experienced individuals.
Because of my life experiences, I am very passionate about improving social outcomes such as education, housing, employment and health regarding care leavers. This has led me to volunteer with organisations dedicated to enhancing the prospects for care-leavers and other disadvantaged groups.
My voluntary work includes working as a policy forum ambassador at Drive Forward Foundation, bridging the gap between policymakers and care-experienced individuals to help improve the social outcomes for care-experienced individuals. For the last two years I have sat on the Alumni Leadership Board of one of the largest educational charities in the UK, Sutton Trust, which aims to widen access into higher education through its programmes, policy and research. My future aspirations are to complete my degree and become a Doctor, continue to work within public policy to improve social outcomes for care experienced individuals.
While I was living with my foster carers they helped prepare me for independent living. They taught me how to cook, clean and budget my money from a very young age. At 18 years old, I was confident in my independent living skills and ready to live in independently. My social worker understood my vision to study medicine and checked in regularly to ensure that I was on track. She encouraged my goals and was my moral support. She ensured that I was aware of the support available to me as a care-leaver and introduced me to my personal advisor. My personal advisor explained that she would take over from my social worker and will help support me until I am 25 years old. She also gave me a booklet to read informing me of my entitlements as a West Sussex City Council care leaver and checked to see if I have any questions. If I need help with anything, she is my first point of call.
I have built strong relationships with secondary school friends and foster family. My foster cousins and best friends are a large support system for me and are always there when I need them. They give me advise and encourage me when I feel like giving up, I do not know where I would be without them. At university, I have built good friendships with some of my peers, and we continue to support one another at university and in our personal lives. My university has an excellent outreach department that helps support groups such as care-leavers, estranged students and forced migrants. The engagement officer is beneficial, she texts and calls to check-in and is available to help throughout a student’s university journey.
My advice for when you meet your PA for the first time is to meet at locations that you are comfortable with and talk openly to your PA. Don’t be scared to talk to your PA about what support you want from them and how often.
As I was doing my GCSE’s I began to think about my future career prospects and decided to pursue a career that involves studying and learning about the human body. I began to research careers related to my interests which is when I discovered the job description of a doctor. I needed specific A-levels and a medical degree to become a doctor and I completed 13 GCSE’s and studied.
Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics at A-level. Alongside my A-levels, I participated in outreach programmes targeted at disadvantaged students such as care-leavers to help increase access into university. The names of these programmes are Realising Opportunities and Sutton Trust Summer School, and they assisted by giving me information and knowledge to help with my UCAS application and taught me skills for a smooth transition into university life.
I remember A-level results day, I was in South Africa with my brother and sister on holiday. We all travelled to the local internet café to find out if I have been accepted at King’s College London university. I was screaming in excitement as I logged into my UCAS portal to find out that I will be studying medicine in September. My siblings and I went to Nando’s to celebrate the great news.
My social worker and English teacher were my biggest supporters and they continuously encouraged me to fulfil my goal of studying medicine at university. My social worker and I had regular meetings to discuss any concerns I have regarding my educational progress which helped me to feel supported. My PA has ensured I have the higher education bursary and checked in regularly to see if I am ok and if I needed anything.
My advice to others who are thinking about going to college or university is to start thinking early about your decisions so you can make the entry/or GCSE requirements for the course you want. Look for outreach programmes that are offered by your local universities/college and attend open days. Don’t be afraid to email admissions or the widening participation department of the university. Also, if you are going to university, it will really help for you to disclose that you are a care leaver on your UCAS application form. This won’t be used against you, instead it will notify the university of your status which means you will get the help that you need – both financial and pastorally.
Hi I’m Dan. I’m 19 and currently at college doing mechanics. When I turned 18, I had to apply for universal credit and housing benefit to pay for my rent. This was a bit of an adjustment for me, but my PA helped me with doing this online and came with me to my appointment at the job centre to make sure I understood everything- I’ve got the hang of it now!
It was hard in the beginning remembering all the things I needed to pay for, but my PA helped me work out a budget plan so I can keep on track and make sure I have money to pay for my bills and food, and not just spend everything all at once. It also helps that I get my 16-19 bursary from college, so this is a bit of extra money to help with travel. Once I have finished my course, I’m hoping to get a fulltime job in a garage so I can come off benefits.
My advice to other care leavers would be, don’t bury your head in the sand if you have money worries – talk to your PA or to the job centre. I use a banking app on my phone so it helps me keep up to date with how much I have left in my account and I can see where my money is going. Money will be tight so I would say start practicing budgeting before you turn 18 and start saving as well if you can. I have saved up a bit of money and plan to use this for driving lessons.
Hi, my name is Dalal and I’m 21. I am currently at university studying to become a surgeon. When I came to the UK, I was age 14, as a refugee with no English. My journey took me around 11 months from country to country, with no food and no drink and I did not know where I was going. I now have 5 years Leave to Remain.
I always think I should not give up if I want to succeed in my life, as Earl Nightingale said ’’Don’t give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it, the time will pass anyway‘’.
It has not felt easy for me being in care but honestly, I worked hard at school, learned the language and focused on my goal to be in the medical field. I did my GCSE’s and A levels and I really succeeded at this. Despite all the difficulties in the past, and what I had been through, today I’m one of the students at university still working on the progress to be more successful. I am studying to become a surgeon so I can save people’s lives, and I work to improve things for care- leavers because this is a way of saving people’s lives or making them better too.
My solicitor and my social worker helped me to do my asylum claim, they supported me to get my papers. It was really good experience, but this didn’t prevent me from being anxious. To be waiting for the decision is not easy thing, but after that when I got all my papers, I started my new life and I focused on my new journey.
It wasn’t always easy meeting new PA’s but all the PAs who worked with me have been the loveliest people ever.
Pathway plans are one of the useful things that have helped me. I have learnt in this country how I can manage to do my own plan, which is about building my future. If plan A does not work, I can use B or C even D. But I’ve never changed the goal about where I want to be in 5 years’ time. My Philosophy is one day I will finally be able to say ‘’I MADE IT ‘’.
My advice to others going through the asylum process is to be patient about everything. I know it is hard as we don’t always have choices, but don’t worry you will get there. You need to learn to be part of the community so the important thing to do is always help other people and you will find someone to help you. I’m not saying forget about your past, remember your past has made you today – just never give up. Sometimes you may feel inside yourself there is no life to live for but keep hope in your dreams and fight every day for your life to be better person.
Hi, I’m Dan and I’m 20. I have just moved into my first independent flat which I am renting privately. It has taken a long journey to finally getting my own place, but I feel very happy to be here. I moved into supported housing when I was 18 and this was my first step of independence from being in care. At that time, I wasn’t quite ready to live completely on my own and it really helped me to have keyworkers around as I was still finding my feet and learning to manage my money and be responsible myself for things! I have had to work with my PA and keyworker to get myself ready for having my own tenancy and getting a better understanding of bills and money etc.
Once I was ready to move on my PA and my keyworker showed me how to search online for places to rent and contact landlords and agencies. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to find somewhere that was affordable and in the right area, but I didn’t give up and had to just keep looking every day. I have now signed a 12-month tenancy in this flat and it feels really good to have found it myself. I’m paying with housing benefit at the moment and I have chosen to get it set up so that my rent money gets paid straight to my landlord which is better for me. It is also a bit daunting as there are bills I’m responsible for like water and electricity that I am not used to paying, but my PA has helped me set these payments up as a standing order so I know how much is being paid every month. It’s also a bit weird being on my own after being used to living with other young people, I have to make more of an effort now to stay in touch with people.
My PA helped me with my move and helped me buy the essential things I needed for my first home, like a sofa and a cooker and things like that, so it is starting to look more and more like home. It’s also good to know that my council tax will get paid for me until I am 22 as a care leaver.
My advice to other care leavers is getting your own place doesn’t always happen quickly so be patient and take the advice from your PA. Make sure you work hard on managing your money well as there are lots of bills when you get your own place that you will need to learn to budget for.
Hi, my name is Chloe, and I am 20 years old. My journey with mental health has been a tough one. I have accessed CAMHS, and adult mental services and in- patients’ services. These services have helped me by supporting me through my difficult journey. They have given me intense therapy and medication which has really helped towards my recovery.
My PA helped me by taking me to some of my appointments; they visited me and phoned me when in crisis. My PA is very good as they emotionally support me by being at the end of the phone and will take me out for a coffee when needed.
Having friends is really important and to talk too, to share and vent how I am feeling. In order to keep myself healthy I have balanced meals, I take my medication, I exercise, and I listen to music and engage with services, talk to family and friends, and self-care. My advice to others would be always put yourself first and listen to services that are trying to support you. Use helplines if you feel like you need to, as it will help.
Hi, I’m Noki, and I’m 22. Through the Voice and Participation Team, I have had the opportunity to engage with topics which have been highly important to my life and experiences. I have engaged with workshops that focused on what it means to be a care leaver and helped improve how services are delivered.
It has given me opportunities to meet more young people who are care experienced and I’ve formed long lasting friendships. I have learned a lot to benefit me for the future – I have improved my knowledge of the leaving care service and have a deeper understanding of the support available to me to develop the next phase of my life.
My name is Megi, I am from Albania and I’m 19 years old. I have been involved with the Voice and Participation Team for at least one year. I have been involved in a meeting called APPG (the All-Party Parliamentary Group) which took place in London in Parliament. It was interesting and I was thrilled to be there. It was really good to hear the views of young people in the leaving care system.
I also achieved my Gold achievement award and got to do a presentation which allowed me to share my experience and talk about my plans for the future. The youth achievements are awards for young people to get accredited for their time helping others. I really enjoyed meeting the Head of West Sussex County Council, they showed their support for me and other people coming into the Country. This has made a huge difference to me; it has taught me to be more confident and has improved my public speaking skills. I feel like I have helped others.
Thank you to the Care Leavers who shared their experiences above.
All content from the local offer can be found on our main website.