Celebrating National Care Leavers Week with Leonnie, beneficiary of the Sky Up Grant

Wednesday 1 November 2023

To celebrate National Care Leavers week, Sky sat down with Leonnie, beneficiary of the Sky Up Grant to discuss the impact the programme has had on her life. From her childhood to today, Leonnie tells us about the stereotypes around care-leavers, how she’s worked hard to take on new opportunities and how the grant supported her. 

  • How did you first hear about Sky Up Grants scheme?  

I first heard about the programme through my social worker who told me about a Sky Up Grants event happening in Newcastle. I decided to go as the theme of the day was mental health and wellbeing and included workshops on how to cope with change. I usually try to attend every event which help care-leavers, but I am also very interested in mental health and how to take care of it, so this just made sense. 

This is where I was introduced to the programme and where I received the Sky Up Grant which included a laptop and a free WiFi connection offered by Sky. I was even able visit Newcastle United’s stadium! 

  • What does the programme mean for you on a day-to-day basis?  

I went into the care system when I was 13 and I’ve been through 11 different foster families and homes as a child. I had a difficult childhood and spiralled after having my own child, until I hit rock-bottom and realised that this life wasn’t for me and I wanted better. I got a job and have been working really hard since then. 

Going through the programme, getting the computer and internet connection has had a very positive domino effect on my life. If I hadn’t received the Sky Up Grant, I wouldn’t have been able to start my construction site management degree online. I’ve actually just passed Level 1 – Health and Safety! I really want to get a stable job. 

The fact that I’m not paying for a WiFi connection also means I am able to save a bit of money and do more activities with my son, which is amazing! Having internet also allows me to stay in regular touch with my friends and family regularly and that’s so important for me. Thanks to the changes I’ve been able to make, I now have a structured routine and it’s great for both me and my son. 

  • What have you most enjoyed about the programme?  

I’ve gone to several Sky Up events, and what I’ve really enjoyed are all the workshops on mental health. Receiving the tips and advice on how to improve my mental health has really helped me long-term, for example, learning breathing exercises when you have to deal with stressful situations. It sounds so simple, but it’s really helped me!  

One important thing is that I’ve also met people who have the same background and have gone through similar situations. Especially with care-leavers, there are a lot of stereotypes about us and meeting other people gives me confidence and I think we can change the stereotyping. 

  • What are your ambitions for the future?  

My dream is to have a career in the media and write my own music. The laptop I received through the grant has allowed me to work on that, downloading instrumentals and to record music. I can even create little podcasts if I want to. Ultimately, getting the Sky Up Grant has created opportunities and a better understanding of what I really want to do in the long term. 

It’s great to see that Sky is trying to change a system where we’re left alone once we turn 18. Care leavers don’t have their parents to help them, so by providing the Sky Up Grants, Sky helps us to get a direct access to the internet and provides skills needed for life. 

  • What advice would you give to someone who was hoping to follow in your footsteps?  

My advice to care leavers would be to never be afraid to ask for help, the more you ask, the more you’ll get. Nothing is impossible and there will always be someone out there willing to help and teach you.