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Scheme launched by UHI Inverness and Highland Council helps care experienced young people take up learning and job opportunities

By Val Sweeney

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LEEP Ahead student Demi Harrower says the support has been "brilliant".
LEEP Ahead student Demi Harrower says the support has been "brilliant".

Young people who have lived in care are being supported through a new scheme to help them take up learning and job opportunities.

The Life, Education, Employment and Personal Development (LEEP) Ahead programme has been launched by UHI Inverness in partnership with Highland Council.

The pilot project has been designed with input from care experienced young people who may face additional challenges which can result in disruption and displacement in their education and gaps in learning, knowledge, and development.

This can often result in fewer opportunities than for their peers.

The programme provides the tools and skills to support them to progress positively whether it is going to college or university, or taking up an apprenticeship programme, training, or work.

Thirteen students, who enrolled in the 18-week programme, have learnt about mental health and wellbeing, healthy eating, managing money, building resilience, independence and coping skills, and preparing for employment.

They are also undertaking projects to find out more about study options and job opportunities.

Demi Harrower (20), of Inverness, has been in care for eight years and is now in her own accommodation.

“I was really nervous about starting this course, but it’s come at exactly the right time for me,” she said.

“It’s giving me the skills I need to live independently. It’s got me into a routine and made me want to learn more.”

She is finding out about different study options available from mechanics to hair and beauty.

“I’ve made new friends and the support has been brilliant,” she said.

Care, health and wellbeing lecturer Nina Gatt, who was brought up in a children’s home, teaches on the LEEP Ahead programme.

“This course focusses on identifying any gaps in their knowledge and mental health and coping strategies that will build their resilience and make it more likely for them to succeed,” she said.

“It’s also about promoting a sense of self-worth and confidence, so they know there’s opportunities out there for them and they’re achievable.”

Amanda Learmonth, access and transitions coordinator at UHI Inverness, said college and university could be daunting for young people with care experience, and undertaking formal qualifications and re-engaging in education could feel like a huge step.

“Care experienced young people have so many skills and qualities to celebrate but often need a little extra support to be able to sustain a full-time course or job,” she said.

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