Getting a good education is not only about their future for young carers and young adult carers, it is the selfless act of securing an income to continue supporting their dependents, be it their grandparents, vulnerable children, or even their parents.
For many young carers, their stresses don’t end at the end of the college day. Worrying about getting the food shopping done and being preoccupied by thoughts of, am I offering enough care, or the right care for that matter, add stresses too heavy for any 11-25-year olds to bear.
With the uncertain times of the past 12 months, it is more important than ever for colleges and universities to implement methods to support their young carers through education. As stress awareness month 2021 focused on ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’ we look at what can be done to help young carers reach their full potential.
Young Carers, who are they?
In the UK there are as many as one in five children and young people who are classed as young carers – someone under 18 who helps to look after a family member or a friend who may be ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. Helping run the home by carrying out practical tasks like cooking, housework, and physical care, but often having to manage the family budget, look after siblings, and assist with giving medicine.
On average young carers are absent from eduction or have their school day cut short by 48 days per year because of their caring responsibilities, showing that education can often be one challenge too many for young carers already presented with difficult home lives.
The Carers Trust reported that 69% of young carers are feeling less connected to others since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
What can education providers do to help?
Education can often be a tool of escapism, but young careers will not always put education at the top of their priorities list. Taking themselves out of the daily stresses of caring for a loved one 24/7 may be just the ticket to keeping a carer motivated.
A key driver in helping these young people is using education to distract them from the difficult life situations they face, but it also can be beneficial to the people that depend on them. Whether they have the time for a full-time course or part-time education, there really is something to fit every carer’s needs.
Online courses at your pace
Leaving the house for hours each day to attend a course isn’t as easy for young carers. Distance learning is on the rise in line with the ever-increasing need for flexible study among teenagers and the National Extension College (NEC) has recognised that by expanding its range of courses.
Founded in 1963, the NEC is a pioneer for online and distance learning and caters for a wide range of subjects; from bookkeeping and business management, to childcare and counselling with all levels of education catered for, including GCSEs and A levels.
Support for students
In 2018 Newcastle College became one of the first educational institutions in the UK to receive the Quality Standard from The Carers Federation, an acknowledgement of their ongoing efforts to support students with caring responsibilities in education.
The college achieved this by improving the enrolment procedures to help identify carers needs by holding Young Carer Awareness days and allocating ‘champions’ who are there to offer support to young adults with caring responsibilities from an early stage.
Through a collaboration with Newcastle Carers, college staff received training on the best ways to provide for young carers, something that has been rolled out across a mix of pastoral and academic support. The college also assists its young carers by directing them to external agencies which offer specialist support.
Rachel Gibson, Head of Central Support Services at Newcastle College, said: “Young carers can often find it difficult to balance education with their caring responsibilities, so it is really important that our learning mentors are able to provide practical and emotional support.
“I hope that we can continue to improve that support and remove barriers to learning for those that need it.”
While flexible learning may take longer for students to complete their course — typically between four to six years in England — it relieves the pressures on a young carer. With 67% of young carers more worried about their future since the pandemic began, part time courses will give additional support which might not have been readily available elsewhere.
Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, young carers are spending an average of ten hours a week more on their caring duties for a family member or friend, 56% of carers asked said their education had suffered and 40% said their mental health had also declined.
Chief executive of the Carers Trust Gareth Howells, feels strongly that more needs to be done to support these people, who cannot be ignored. “That over-dependence on young carers and young adult carers has created a ticking time bomb with their mental health and wellbeing being placed at serious risk. Coronavirus has brought into sharper focus still the unacceptable pressures young carers are under and the effect this is having on their wellbeing and life chances.
“We’re long past the time when sympathy and kind words for young carers is enough. Hundreds of thousands of young carers across the UK need real support and we are calling on the government to urgently invest in support services for young carers to ensure they get the support they need.”
Ensure you take the time to help young carers in regaining control in these uncertain times by checking in on your young carers and how you can help them!
Credit to : Newcastle College (ncl-coll.ac.uk)