Steven Hawksworth is in his third year studying for a degree in education studies at Sheffield Hallam University. Steven was seven when he, his brother and two sisters, all went into care after his mum was unable to cope with four children. He lived with his foster family until coming to Sheffield Hallam.
Steven has just finished writing his dissertation where he has explored the experiences of students who come to university from foster care. From his research he found that care leavers need an extra £5k per year more than average students to get by.
From his own experience, this is something that Steven has felt to be true, often working full time hours alongside his studies to make ends meet.
'I get a care leavers bursary of £1500 per year from the University which has made all the difference since my local authority cut my weekly allowance. If I didn't have the care leaver's bursary I would have had to drop out, as I can't afford to do more hours at work as well as study.
'Some weeks I work 35 hours at my job. After the day's work I will then go to the library to study until the early hours.
'Financial support for students from care is so important, because they don’t get it from anywhere else. Even if it means you can drop just five hours of paid work a week - it still makes all the difference.'
As Steven doesn't go home during the holidays, his bursary and the money he earns have to last him the whole year rather than the 44 weeks of term.
'I’ve been home three times during my three years at university, because, from my foster parents' point of view, they've filled my placement. Now I'm gone, they aren’t being paid for me and someone else has filled my place.'
As well as financial support, Steven has also received support from dedicated and trained advisors who are on hand to offer advice and guidance to students from care.
'I’ve had some great support from the outreach team. They've let me know about any funding and support that's available to me and have even helped me with my master's application. They've let me know what I'm entitled to and have put me in touch with the course leaders from the universities I'm applying to.'
Steven has always known that he wanted to come to university, partly to help improve his own life, and partly to help improve the lives of other care leavers.
'I'm applying to do a master's in social work, so that I can become a social worker and eventually do a PhD in child protection and inclusion. I want to work to improve the care system, because I've seen firsthand how social workers are being stretched - they're often given caseloads of around 30 children without adequate training or support.
'I applied to university because I wanted to do better for myself. I knew that if I didn't go to uni, I'd have nothing. The prospect of getting a degree was a lifeline for me.
'I definitely think university has the potential to change my life. It's about moving away from the past and getting to where I want to be.'