Solutions to encourage aspiration among young people leaving care have been developed thanks to an event organised by Teesside University.
The university is exploring a new ambassador scheme which will actively work to encourage and support care leavers as they move into higher education thanks to the Opening Doors for Care Leavers Hackathon.
The 12-hour hackathon saw more than 60 people from organisations including police, local authorities, social services and education, as well as care leavers and foster carers split into three groups and tasked to develop ideas and solutions to overcome the challenges young people face when they leave care.
The hackathon also heard from renowned poet Lemn Sissay and musician Dylan Cartlidge, who starred in The Mighty Redcar, who spoke about their journey though the care system
Five people who had been in care also relayed their experiences of leaving care as well as challenging and giving their input into the ideas of the three groups.
At the end of the day, the three groups made a presentation of their ideas to a panel of judges.
The winning presentation was for a Care Leaver Ambassador Network (CLAN) which would use student ambassadors at Teesside University, who have been in care, to develop relationships with their counterparts who are leaving school and encourage them to think seriously about entering higher education.
Once at university, the ambassadors would also work with the care leavers in a mentoring capacity to ensure that that they receive emotional and practical support as they continue their studies.
The hackathon was organised by staff at Teesside University as part of the University’s Edge initiative which aims to encourage an entrepreneurial culture among its workforce.
Dr Daisy Best, one of the organisers, said: “The hackathon was hard work, but an extremely rewarding day.
“There was a real magic in the room as a diverse group of people came together to work towards a common goal.
“We heard some very harrowing but also inspiring stories about the experience of young people leaving care and a lot of very valuable connections and friendships were made.
“We’re now actively exploring how to take the CLAN scheme forward as it has the potential to make a real difference to the aspirations and experience of care leavers as they look to take the next step in their lives.
“The key thing is that this is not a standalone event, we now have a core group of people who will be working together in the future to help some of the most disadvantaged young people in the region.”