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University staff member launches care leavers stocking appeal

The YuStart has now raised over £2,000

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Image Credit: Chris Hoyle

A YuStart Christmas stocking appeal for care experienced and estranged students has raised over £2,000. The charity appeal started by Chris Hoyle, a University of York management information analyst, is aiming to provide 55 stockings this Christmas for York students. A care leaver is someone who has experienced living under the care of their local authority, whether through foster care, social services or so-called independent living.

Mr Hoyle, who is himself a care leaver, explained to Nouse just how different an experience Christmas can be for someone who isn’t with, or hasn’t got a family to be with during the festive period. “Think about what Christmas is like if you don't have people around you. You probably aren’t going to be opening presents. You’re probably not going to have a nice drink or a large meal. It can be an extremely lonely day for some of our care leaving students and estranged students, who don’t always have many people around them.” The initiative is designed to show those students that the University cares about this. It cares about you and that you are on the agenda.”

While the initiative has been running for two years, this is the first year that has seen the fund made available to the wider public to donate to. Originally set up with the target of £1,375, £25 per Christmas stocking, the fund has already raised £2,051. With “every single penny” raised being spent on this year’s stockings. The original plan was to just include typical Christmas time gifts: a chocolate orange, a pair of Christmas themed socks, Christmas puddings, and the not so typical Christmas cards hand-signed by the Vice-Chancellor. The Student Support Hub is now looking at ways the stockings could be improved, such as including Amazon vouchers. And while Chris Hoyle says he has been shocked by the level of support, with the fund hitting its target within 30 hours, he says that just how good these stockings can be does depend on how much more the team manage to fundraise.

Replying to whether he thought his own experience in care was a factor in creating this campaign he said: “I’m in a position to help them and to let other people see how they can help them, within their remit. I care about their ability to achieve. I’m very lucky that I now spend Christmas with in-laws and my foster parents, a lot of our students don’t have that.” Care leavers as a whole make up 0.1 per cent of the University of York’s student population. However, through its Access and Participation Plan, the University is aiming to double this to 0.3 per cent within five years. Speaking on the issue Chris said, “we are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society, but for those students to come from that disadvantage to get to a Russell Group university, shows that despite disadvantages, we can achieve regardless, given the right support.”The appeal comes as the care system in the UK has come under scrutiny amid increased pressures. The number of looked-after children rose by 4 per cent from 2017 to 2018 to over 75,000, while the number of children being adopted continued to drop, falling by 13 per cent. At the same time, council budgets have been cut drastically since 2010. The chief executive of Children England said that “the council budgets that have to pay for the costs of children in care are so strained in meeting daily costs that there is no money to invest in the new additional care capacity needed.”

Investigations by Nouse into the quality of York Council’s children in care service also found some causes for concern, particularly the number of children in so-called ‘independent living’ in 2019 doubling from just three years earlier. However, York Council told us that in a recent survey of children in care over the age of 11, 94 percent said they felt safe and happy where they are living. The University of York has stated: “there are many people who have worked hard behind the scenes over a number of years to help make this a reality. You can help by donating to the YuStart, or if you can’t support it financially fund is urging people to share its project on social media.” Concluding his call with Nouse Chris finished by saying: “I love Christmas, Christmas should be a great time, and we want to try and make sure it can be for everyone.”
You can donate to the Yustart at this link: https://yustart.hubbub.net/p/Christmas-Stockings-2019/pitch/

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