Judith Cossey has overcome childhood neglect, growing up in care, and issues with drugs and drink to graduate from the University of Sunderland with a Masters degree. Now Judith is about to start a new career that she hopes will be the start of a new life for herself and her young family.

Judith, 26, from Washington, is starting as an Executive Officer for HMRC Longbenton this week.  It has been a long road to gain her Masters degree in Practice Development, but she has never lost her determination to make a new life for her and her three children.

“This job means the absolute world to me,” says Judith.  “It means that my children can have the childhood that I didn’t have.”

When she was four months old, Judith was placed onto the child protection register due to neglect, and after Judith, her two brothers and younger sister were abandoned by their mother they were all placed into emergency foster care.

At the age of 13 she was moved into a children’s home, where she stayed until she was 18. After Judith moved out of care, she got herself into a destructive relationship involving drink and drugs. She became pregnant when she was still 18, and lost her flat.

“I moved back in with my stepmother and cleaned up my act. I wanted a better life for me and my son, so I decided to go back to college.”

Judith came to the University of Sunderland to study for a Health and Social Care degree, graduating in 2017. While at university, she was supported by the University’s We Care Team. One of the things that students like Judith value most is always having someone looking out for them on campus, whether to help with academic support or just for a coffee and a chat.

“They were a massive support for me during my studies,” says Judith. “I completed my top-up degree in Health and Social Care in 2017, and then proceeded onto my Masters.”

In 2019 Judith graduated from her Master’s degree and is now starting a career with the HMRC.  Along with partner Ryan, the new job will completely change the lives of the young mother and her children, Mason (7 years), Eliza-Rose (2 years) and Alexander-Thomas (11 months old).

“I am able to go on days out with Ryan and the kids, and even able to go on little caravan holidays. Work means I am able to have a life beyond my family.

“Now, I just want to enjoy life to the best I can, and enjoy every minute of watching my children grow up.”

Judith admits it has been hard to juggle children and study, but added that the University’s We Care Team have had a huge impact on her achieving her ambitions.

“The support I received is the reason I graduated with a Masters degree. If the support from the We Care Team was not there I’d have probably thrown in the towel.”

And the ambitious young mother may not be finished yet: “Maybe one day I’ll apply to do a PhD as well,” she added.

The Government’s Higher Education Principles set out how universities should do more for young people leaving care by providing them with personal support as well as giving them money for course materials and to fully experience student life.

The University of Sunderland’s We Care Team meet with each of the University’s care experienced students to produce a bespoke support plan. This is based on the student’s individual needs and can include help with finding accommodation 52 weeks a year, wellbeing support, additional financial support and finding part-time work.

Judith says: “I’ve learned that if you need any support, no matter what, just ask for it. There is always someone willing to help with any issues that you may have.

“Remember to stick with your work even when it feels like you can’t do it any more. All the stress of university is worth it in the end.”

The University of Sunderland Postgraduate Open Day takes place on Wednesday 12 February, 5.30pm-8pm, The Gateway, Chester Road Sunderland.

You can book your place here.


Cover photo by David Wood

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