Posted Wednesday 9 December 2020
As millions of people get together with their families and friends for Christmas, in line with government guidelines, Kingston University is planning to ensure its care leavers and estranged students are supported throughout the festive period. Access and support adviser for the KU Cares scheme Beth Taswell explains how the programme has adapted in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The festive period is a time where we are surrounded by messaging that places an emphasis on spending time with family. For people who don't have those positive associations around the idea of family, this can be a very difficult time of year. The festive period is particularly difficult for many of our KU Cares students and alongside the cold, dark weather, we know that this can have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
The pandemic has changed how we are supporting our students during this time. Our KU Cares programme will be marking 15 years in 2021 and previously, we have held a festive social event with our students to celebrate the end of the first semester and worked with the Union of Kingston Students to ensure that our students received a gift at this event. As we are unable to hold any in-person events and taking into account that many of our students have been accessing their studies remotely, we are making an extra effort to create opportunities for students to link up virtually, meet others in similar situations to themselves, and form their own networks in the lead up to the winter break.
We were keen to start communicating with students as early as possible, given the significant attention in the media about university students "returning home" for Christmas. We wanted to try and actively combat these messages so that our students, and their circumstances, did not feel forgotten about or unacknowledged.
We have reached out to all of our KU Cares students with a survey to find out what their plans are over the Festive period. Because many students at Kingston will commute to the university (and many of our students are living all around London), we are making sure that support is not just accessible to students living in halls of residence, but those living alone or in temporary accommodation.
Through the survey we are able to find out anyone who may be spending Christmas by themselves, who would like to be linked up with other students, and what specific support individual students feel they need during this time. As a result of these survey responses, we are organising a series of "meet-up" virtual events and some nice surprises to be sent to students directly.
In the lead up to the winter break we are working more intensively on a one-to-one basis with students, ensuring that they are linked up with the right support services and aware of support they can access when the university is closed. All KU Cares students will be given information about support services they can access when the university is closed to ensure no-one is left behind during the festive period.