This article was first published by Ashley Cameron on the NUS Connect website.
Only 4% of care experienced young people access further or higher education, compared to 36% of the general population.
This means that care experienced students are massively under-represented and like other under-represented groups, NUS and our student associations in Scotland have a duty to include their views and voices in the work that they carry out.
Two and a half years ago NUS Scotland became one of the first organisations to sign up to the Pledge2listen campaign – a commitment to listen to and include the voices of students with care experience in the work that we do.
Since NUS Scotland signed up to this campaign, the law has changed for the better.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 ensures that colleges and universities now have corporate parenting responsibilities for their care experienced students. These duties include upholding the rights and safeguarding the well-being of care leavers.
And now it’s time for a call to action! NUS Scotland and student associations need to take on their responsibilities by including and championing the care experienced students they represent.
We must be encouraging care experienced students to self-identify: to their institutions, to their student associations, and to each other. We need this so that this group’s voice is at the heart of everything we do, so they are better represented, and so they have much more of an inclusive experience in their education.
It’s time for our students’ associations to engage with those with care experience. To help them set up groups on our campuses, to empower them to campaign on the issues that affect their lives, and to work together to make education and our democracy as open, accessible, and diverse as we possibly can.
You should not be made to feel ashamed because you come from a care background, and it’s our job to stand up and make this a reality.
National Care Leavers’ week runs from the 22nd-31st October. You can follow everything that’s happening, and join in, on #NCLWS15.
You can find more information about Who Cares? Scotland at http://www.whocaresscotland.org
Ashley Cameron is a member of the NUS Scotland Student Executive Committee and a volunteer advisor for the Life Changes Trust.