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A joint campaign by Barnardo's and Learning and Work Institute

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Who are young adult carers?

Young adult carers are young people aged 16-24 who provide unpaid care to someone, usually a family member, on a regular basis. We know there are more than 314,000 young adult carers in England and Wales, the equivalent of more than 1 in 20 young people. It's estimated that these young people provide £5.5 billion of unpaid care per year.

  • Young adult carers give up their childhoods to care for others. Yet, through no fault of their own, they consistently miss out on opportunities in learning and work.
  • On average, carers miss 5% of school days because of caring, and caring interferes with a quarter of all school days
  • Young adult carers have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE, the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers, for example, the difference between nine Cs and nine Ds
  • 24% of young adult carers in school say they cannot afford to go to college or university
  • Young adult carers are three times as likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) compared to other young people.

The policy change we’re campaigning for

We want young adult carers, aged 16-17, to be exempt from the 21-hour rule in Carer’s Allowance.

Our research shows that this policy change is crucial if we are to ensure that young adult carers are able to do T Levels. And it’s important that this change happens now as T levels will be introduced from September 2020.

T levels are new vocational courses which will follow GCSEs and be equivalent to 3 A levels. Introduced from September 2020, they are being developed in collaboration with employers and businesses and will provide young people with the specialist knowledge and skills they need to progress into skilled work, further study or higher apprenticeships.

However, there is a risk that under the current system, hundreds of thousands of young adult carers will be locked out of the opportunities provided by T levels. Under the ‘21-hour rule’, young people studying 21 hours or more per week are not entitled to claim Carer's Allowance, worth £66.15 per week. Given T levels will involve around 24 hours per week of study, young adult carers would have to choose between pursuing a T level, or keeping this vital financial support.

Removing the 21-hour rule could make a huge difference in opening up opportunities for young adult carers. Our calculations show that the cost of providing Carer’s Allowance to all eligible 16-17 year old young adult carers in further education is estimated at £22.5 million per year.

If young adult carers are not made exempt from the 21-hour rule, significant numbers will be excluded from the opportunities that T levels offer.

Read our full policy paper and the research that informed it.

Get involved!

We need your support to campaign for young adult carers to be exempt from the 21-hour rule, before T levels are introduced in September. How you can support our campaign:

Complete the form below to pledge your support. Please also send us your logo, for us to display on this page. (Insert form at end of page)

Write to your MP. Use our letter template to urge them to support the changes we propose

Share our campaign messages on social media using #ImpossibleChoices. Download example tweets and Facebook posts.

Our campaign supporters...

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