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Care leavers who progress to college will have accommodation costs covered by State

Rental costs a barrier for entry to higher education among young people leaving care

The State plans to cover student accommodation costs for young adults leaving the care system.

When a young person living in State care – such as foster or residential care – reaches 18, many State supports come to an end.

In a new move, funding provided through the Department of Further and Higher Education will be used to pay student accommodation costs for young people living in campus accommodation.

There is no official data on the number of care leavers in higher education.


However, research shows that in the 18-22 age group, a total of about 1,700 young people out of almost 2,250 were in education or training. Statistically, care leavers are significantly underrepresented in higher education.

Announcing the move to provide funding for accommodation, Minister Simon Harris said a priority for the Department’s for Further and Higher Education was to track the number of people who have had care-experience and their route into third level.

He said officials have been working to help young people in the care of the State access third-level education but the issue of accommodation has posed a huge challenge for many.

“Many care leavers are made independent at 18 and must navigate the transition from residential care or foster care while simultaneously trying to access further and higher education without family or community support and in the face of significant costs,” he said.

“This approach will ensure the costs of accommodation are covered for this cohort of students. It will ensure they have security of tenure and will not have to worry about the costs.”

Data on care-experienced young people’s entry to higher education is limited to the data published via Hear access programme since 2016 which only relates to those students who self-identify as care leavers.

The Department has worked with the Epic, a support group for children in care, which provides a national advocacy service to children and young people in State care.

Epic youth council member, Kai Brosnan said that as care-leaver and a student with first-hand experience of the housing crisis, the announcement was “hugely welcome”.

“Care leavers often have less support than their peers and are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis which creates a huge barrier to accessing and maintaining higher education and training,” said Mr Brosnan.

“This funding will enable more care leavers to access third level education and apprenticeships without the significant strain caused by the housing crisis.”

Mr Brosnan said that since care leavers were recognised in the National Access Plan for Higher Education last year, their voices are being heard which is leading to greater understanding among policymakers on the challenges and barriers faced by care-experienced students.

“Other Departments should learn from this good practice and make the same effort to support care-experienced children and young people,” Mr Brosnan said.

“Children in care are a whole-of-Government responsibility, this doesn’t solely lie with the Department of Children and Tusla, as evidenced by Minister Harris’s announcement today.”

In addition, Minister Harris has secured funding for an apprenticeship scheme for this cohort also. This will ensure a student in care who wishes to choose an apprenticeship will have access to financial supports. This will be worth €3,000

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent