Text provided by Andy McGowan for the UniTasterDays Teachers' Guide to University, when in-post as Head of Engagement at Caring Together
In every classroom, every lab, every dance
studio, in every college and sixth form across
the country, there will be at least 1 or 2 pupils
who are constantly juggling their studies with
caring responsibilities for ill or disabled family
members or friends – young carers.
A young carer is someone aged 18 or under who provides unpaid care to a family member or friend who could not cope without their support. This support may be needed due to illness, disability, a mental illness, or substance misuse, or often a combination of these.
Many of these young carers will have the potential to go onto higher education, and might want to, but will think they ‘can’t’ because of their caring responsibilities. We have spoken to young carers who have successfully progressed to university and asked them what helped them feel able to apply and ultimately go onto higher education. Their advice is below.
You can only support the young carers who you know about – without awareness-raising and processes to help identify potential young carers, you will struggle to help them.
Some young carers make education or career choices because of their caring role. For some, they think caring is ‘the only thing I know how to do’ or think university isn’t an option because ‘who will look after mum?’ or ‘how could I afford university when dad isn’t well enough to work?’ For other young carers they can struggle with feelings of guilt.
If you don’t know who your local young carers organisation is, you can find your nearest service by visiting The Children’s Society.
From financial support to flexibility with deadlines, to additional support around next steps after college – having a carer-friendly school or college can make a huge difference for young carers.
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