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Jake Woodall

Jake Woodall

'I first went into care when I was six years old. I was in care for two years initially, and in those two years I lived with two different families. I then went back to live with my mum, however that didn't work out so I went into care permanently when I was 8.

'Since then, I've been in six different placements - which is fairly good going for a child in foster care, as usually we move around a lot more than that. Towards the end I was lucky to be placed with a wonderful family who provided a very stable home for me up until I left to start university at Sheffield Hallam. They helped me to make the transition out of the care system as normal as possible.

'Despite moving around a lot growing up and going through the foster care system, I still managed to get fairly good grades at school and college. Mainly because I've always been interested in computer science, but also because I knew that by working hard to get good grades and going to university I could get a job in something that interests me. I also wanted to show people that regardless of my background I was still determined to succeed.

'The statistics of care leavers who go on to university are absolutely shocking - only 6%. I don't think this is due to lack of ability. I think that for many care leavers it's more of an aspirational problem, along with the worry that there isn't the financial support there to fund the unique requirements care leavers have that sets us apart from normal students.

'At the moment there is a problem in the fact that the support that care leavers receive transitioning out of the care system is not consistent between local authorities. Depending on where you're from in the UK will depend on how much support you receive from your local authority. Therefore it's really reassuring to know that Sheffield Hallam offers so much support so that students like me can focus on what's important. I know that financial support is available to help me succeed despite my unique circumstances.

'I've been very lucky that my local authority paid for my accommodation which has been a huge help and is not something which all care leavers receive. Without that I would have really struggled to support myself financially through university. I wouldn't have been able to afford to pay for accommodation for 365 days of the year because I don't go home over the holidays, which is a problem most care leavers face.

'The support Hallam has given has been vital in helping me to sort out early move dates, longer accommodation contracts and accessing bursaries. The financial help I have received has also helped me to fund certification to aid my employability, pay for deposits when moving accommodation, travel to interviews for employment and cover costs of books for my course, which I would not have been able to afford otherwise. Right from the open day I was given all the information I needed to find out and apply for the Care Leavers Bursary and where to turn to if I needed any help or support.

'I know where I want to be, and I'm putting the effort in to succeed. I managed to land one of only four internships at Cisco - one of the world's largest networking companies where I worked during my placement year. And I'm well on my way to graduating with a first class degree in network management and design later this year. After that I'd like to teach, or set up my own IT consultancy. I feel fortunate to be part of the 6% of care leavers who go to university and I have worked hard to get here, but this statistic needs to change.'

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