With universities being a melting pot of culture, it acts as a chance to learn the power of your own voice, and then how to use it. Factors such as student societies, journalistic student platforms, and the right to protest mean that universities such as Sussex try and amplify unheard voices of society. Through my own time at Sussex I saw voices and experiences of movements such as Feminism, race and LGBTQ+ come to the forefront of university discussion and awareness.
However, an experience that universities have room to improve on is that of the care leaver experience. A study by OFFA (the Office for Fair Access) found in 2015 only 6% of care leavers went to university compared to 43% of the general public aged between 17-30. The result of this is universities – despite their best intentions – run the risk of becoming blind to these experiences in ways they are not with others.
Universities often have things in place to try and increase fairer university access through Widening Participation schemes and teams, although while the university intake of these students remains low, the voices of care experienced people (care-experienced meaning experience of being in foster care) remain relatively unheard.
One of the ways in which this issue is being combatted is through a writing competition called Voices 2018 launched by the charity Coram, the UK’s oldest children’s charity. Coram is inviting care leavers (as well as children in care) to write up to 500 words on the theme of ‘Who or What Makes you Proud’ in any format from poems and short stories to lyrics and spoken word pieces.
This competition is a way of amplifying the experiences of young care-experienced people, with prizes including shopping vouchers of up to £100. The shortlisted pieces of writing will be published in a book with writers being invited to an awards ceremony in London to have their work celebrated.
Through initiatives such as Voices 2018, voices of the care system will hopefully be recognised and the talents of those within care highlighted.
The competition is open until 8th February 2018, and entries can be submitted online.
If you are interested in entering or keen to know more then please visit http://www.coramvoice.org.uk/voices-2018 or email Voices@coramvoice.org.uk .