Glasgow Action Partnership
Overcoming the barriers to Further Education for Homeless People
The Glasgow Action Partnership is a network of employability projects working with homeless people and/or people with mental health problems, all funded through New Futures Fund administered by Scottish Enterprise. The idea for the research was in response to concerns of workers that many service users had difficulty accessing or sustaining courses for more than a short period.
What were they trying to achieve?
The aim was to identify the actual and perceived barriers that people affected by homelessness and/or mental ill health encounter in trying to access and sustain further education, and to make recommendations for overcoming them.
How did they go about it?
The steering group of workers from three New Futures projects recruited a team that included experienced researchers and service users as co-researchers. The team received training in interviewing and recording skills. Three key groups were consulted using a mixture of interviews and focus groups. 29 service users, 22 of whom had college experience, 9 FE wider access co-ordinators and five workers from New Futures projects. The findings were presented at a conference. A short video was made featuring interviews with service users and was shown at the conference.
What did they find?
The main issues that emerged were difficulties in settling in to college, stigma, practical barriers (particularly childcare), financial barriers, and raised expectations of what would happen after college. The conclusion was that the barriers can be overcome only through a partnership approach between colleges, support agencies, policymakers and funders. The main recommendations were:
- Settling In: A preparation for college course covering study skills and confidence building, a more flexible programme of start times throughout the year, enrolling students as a group to build peer support and an integrated personal tutor and peer support system
- Challenging Stigma: College culture where inappropriate comments by staff are challenged, enabling people to talk about their personal histories without encountering prejudice and awareness raising for staff of mental health, homelessness and challenging prejudice
- Dismantling Practical Barriers: Affordable and flexible childcare and monitoring the relationship between poor attendance, drop-out rates and childcare difficulties
- Eliminating Financial Barriers: To find a way through the financial maze, going to college to bee seen as a step towards work rather than a way of avoiding it
- Delivering Expectations of Continuing Education and Work: To include prospective employers in the partnership approach and greater assistance for students to identify and access work or other opportunities after completing a course
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