Lemn’s award to help care leavers at uni

Billinge poet Lemn Sissay
Billinge poet Lemn Sissay

A Billinge-born poet has had the country’s first scholarship dedicated to helping care leavers fund a PhD named in his honour.

Lemn Sissay spoke of his delight after Huddersfield University, which has previously given him an honorary doctorate, announced the award to help people brought up by the state reach the very highest level of academic study.

Lemn, who spent his teenage years in the Wigan and Leigh care system, also challenged the authorities to do more to help children and young people being brought up in care to achieve their potential.

Lemn said: “When the university asked me if I would put my name to the scholarship I just thought it was incredible. It’s a great step in the right direction because it’s very important to bolster the aspirations of young people in care.

“In a family parents say they want their children to do well and go to college, somehow that gets through and you find yourself at uni, but for someone who has been brought up by various people in care that power of suggestion isn’t there.

“When I was in care, we were thought of as being uneducatable and preparing for work in a factory or on a market stall. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a child in care needs to have better options.”

Lemn, who published his first poetry collection aged 20, also recently crowd-funded a Christmas dinner for 50 young people from across Greater Manchester to help raise the profile of children in care.

He said: “People think children in care are a problem, whereas the truth is they are a great opportunity for our society to show itself at its best.

“I’m just sick of them being demonised.”