Tips for young adult carers starting university
Firstly, congratulations to all the young adult carers who have been offered a university place! The thought of balancing study and your caring responsibilities as a young adult carer may be worrying or daunting. However, there is also a huge amount to look forward to as you embark on this next phase of your education.
I’ve pulled together some hints and tips to help you prepare for starting at university:
- Recognise your caring status and let your university know. Many young carers don’t know that they are providing unpaid care to a family member and so may not know to look for additional support. Carers Trust defines a carer as someone who cares, unpaid, for a family member or friend with an illness or disability, mental health condition or an addiction. You are a young carer if you are aged under 18, and a young adult carer if aged between 18 and 25. The NHS provides an introductory guide for finding out if you are a young carer here.
- Find out what your university offers in the way of financial support for students with caring responsibilities. Some universities offer a young carers bursary of £500 per year for students under the age of 25 and others offer travel bursaries in case you need to go home more often due to your caring responsibilities. Your university may have a page for ‘student carers’, or you can contact your universities student financial department directly to find out whether your university offers this and what the eligibility criteria are.
- Find out what pastoral and academic support your university offers. Some universities have a dedicated member of staff who supports student carers. Others may offer the Carer Passport scheme, which means you won’t have to share your story multiple times with different staff across the university. Find out more about the Carer Passport here. When you arrive at university, find out where the Student Welfare Service is, so you know where you can go for someone to talk to. You may also be assigned a personal academic tutor, who will support you on your university journey. Book in a meeting with them and let them know about your caring responsibilities, they will be able to help you navigate your academic department.
- Check that your university course doesn’t invalidate any Carers Allowance you are receiving. If you are receiving Carers Allowance you can only study up to 21 hours a week including classes, lectures, tutorials, seminars and the independent study expected by the university. You must report a change in your circumstances if you receive Carers Allowance and start full-time education at University.
- Remember, you are not alone. Take advantage of the support out there to give you the space to really make the most of the start of your university experience.
There are lots of fantastic organisations who provide support, advice and information for young adult carers, including Carers Trust, Young Carers Alliance, Caring Together, MYTIME to name just a few. If you haven’t connected with these organisations before they may be worth exploring for any additional help and information. There are also local carers organisations operating right across the country, so it’s worth searching online for a group in your area who could provide additional support. You can search for support local to where you will be studying here.
I wish all young adult carers the very best of luck at university and beyond.