Jane Slowey Memorial Bursary students present compelling housing research in the wake of Covid-19
In memory of the late Jane Slowey CBE, a former Commonweal Trustee, University of Birmingham alumna and an active campaigner against social injustices, Commonweal offers undergraduate students at Birmingham University’s School of Social Policy a bursary to help with their final year studies.
Last week, students Michelle Anderson, Ofure Osebor, and Seerut Ladhar, the recipients of last year’s Jane Slowey Memorial Bursary, presented their research findings to members of Jane’s family, Commonweal Trustees, staff, and friends.
Michelle Anderson, Seerut Ladhar and Ofure Osebor each received a bursary of £2,500 from Commonweal to support their final year dissertation research, as well as informal mentoring and advice throughout their last year of undergraduate study.
The research conducted by this year’s Bursary recipients varied greatly, with Michelle exploring how lessons learnt from the pandemic can help address homelessness in the UK, while Ofure looked into the relationship between multiple social exclusion and sex workers, and Seerut researching the emerging injustices Covid-19 has had on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students.
The presentations were held online due to National Rail strikes and included an in-person presentation from Michelle and pre-recorded slides from Ofure and Seerut.
Fiona Mactaggart, Commonweal Trustee and former Chair of the organisation, led the meeting and began by remembering the late Jane Slowey and her contributions to the voluntary sector. Fiona also reflected on the pivotal role Jane played as a Trustee in shaping Commonweal into the learning-based charity it is today.
Throughout her life, Jane was a leading figure in the housing sector and was committed to driving social change. She was Chief Executive at the Foyer Foundation, the youth homeless charity, and sat on Commonweal’s board of Trustees for ten years until she died in 2017. The bursary was introduced to support students following in Jane’s footsteps and focusing their dissertation on social injustices, housing issues, and young people.
Since 2018, the bursary has been granted to students at Jane’s alma mater in memory of her dedication to helping others. Jane’s influence on Commonweal’s ethos and mission, and her visionary approach to tackling social injustice, have continued to be felt throughout the organisation since her passing in 2017.
Michelle presented her findings first and discussed how the temporary measures introduced during the pandemic, such as the ‘Everyone In’ policy and expanding welfare support to asylum seekers shows the Government can tackle homelessness in the UK. She concluded that the work of the third sector is essential to empowering communities to break the stigma against the homeless population, and rally around ending homelessness.
Michelle Anderson said, “It was an honour to present to such accredited alumni and their questions following my presentation really sparked some interesting ideas and discussion on the issue of homelessness in the UK”.
Ofure then shared pre-recorded slides presenting her research surrounding the multiple social exclusion sex workers face leading to them becoming homeless. She found that settled housing can play a role in solving other forms of social exclusion sex workers encounter, such as drug abuse from trauma, and keep homeless sex workers safe.
Ofure Osebor said: “Being awarded the Jane Slowey Bursary was invaluable to my studies this year. The work of Commonweal Housing inspired my dissertation which closely aligned with Commonweal’s work surrounding social injustice. The Bursary allowed me to fully immerse myself in my research and really enjoy the process through the financial support and mentorship. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given, to make a difference through my research and achieve academic satisfaction.”
Finally, Seerut presented her statistical analysis on the impact Covid-19 has had on the mental health of BAME students at the University of Birmingham. She found that almost 81 percent of all BAME students reported their mental health had deteriorated throughout the pandemic, whereas 64 percent of non-BAME students reported nothing had impacted their mental health during the pandemic.
Seerut Ladhar said: “The Jane Slowey Memorial Bursary has provided immense support and financial ease to my final year dissertation as I was able to input more time and energy into a piece of research that was incredibly close to my heart. I am very much satisfied with the outcome of my research as it helped to identify communities who struggled mentally during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus, I was able to conduct a statistical analysis highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of university students, in particular BAME students”.
All three presentations sparked interest and discussion amongst the audience. Heather Petch, a member of Commonweal’s Advisory Panel said: “Thank you Commonweal, Birmingham Uni and all involved in this initiative for this opportunity to do some thinking, have a bit of a debate, and remember Jane”.
Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “It was a great pleasure to hear about the work of all three students. Each presentation aligned with the values and ethos of Commonweal and gave everyone important findings to reflect on. I would also like to thank Michelle for her superb job presenting her findings in person and her engagement with the audience when answering questions about her research.”
Commonweal is continuing its relationship with the University of Birmingham for an additional 10 years, with the 2022/23 recipients of the Jane Slowey Memorial Bursary announced on our website soon. If you wish to find out more about the Bursary, click here.