Supporting young adult carers to access learning

23 January 2013

How policy can support young adult carers, aged 16-25, to access and achieve in education and training at a key transition point in their lives, was the focus of a joint NIACE and Carers Trust policy seminar, hosted by Slaughter and May in London.

Enabling young carers to fulfill their educational and employment potential and ensuring that caring responsibilities don’t hinder their achievements, are key priorities in the Department of Health’s Carers Strategy Refresh (2010-2018).

NIACE and the Carers Trust held this seminar to bring together key strategic partners in Government, the learning and skills sector and carers’ organisations, to examine possible solutions. Age 16-25 is a pivotal period during which most young adults make the transition to adulthood and the choices, opportunities, responsibilities and rewards that this brings. However, for many young adult carers, the transition experience is often very different. As a result of their caring responsibilities, many young adult carers don’t make linear transitions, are not afforded the opportunities taken for granted by their peers and can become isolated and disaffected.

“Education providers need to realise how many carers there are out there and that every single one of them will need help and support in some way, shape or form.” – Jon, Young Adult Carer

“Once I made my school, college and university aware of my caring role they were supportive…I could talk to them any time.” – Laura, Young Adult Carer

The policy seminar – attended by NIACE’s patron, HRH The Princess Royal – took forward the work of NIACE’s ‘Who Cares?’ project. Funded by the Department of Health, the project involved extensive consultations with young adult carers and their stories and views informed the development of a series of resources, publications and staff training sessions.

Carol Taylor, NIACE Director for Research and Development, said:

“As a result of their caring responsibilities, young adult carers commonly experience difficulties like isolation, fatigue and mental and physical health problems. They often have little time for themselves and activities outside the home, so their friendships and wider relationships suffer.

It is not surprising, therefore, that their learning is affected as well. Due to their caring responsibilities they often miss or are late for lessons and are frequently unable to complete work on time. As a consequence a high proportion of them have low aspirations, fail to achieve their full potential and leave education with few or, even, no qualifications. In addition, negative experiences of learning, such as bullying and a lack of understanding by peers and professionals, mean that many young adult carers become deeply marginalised and ‘turned off’ learning at a young age.

NIACE is happy to be working closely with the Carers Trust to cement both organisations’ commitment to helping young adult carers reach their full potential. To do this we’re also working with policy shapers and makers to improve access to and achievement in education and training, leading to sustainable employment for young adult carers. We are grateful to Slaughter and May too for their ongoing support.”