Tuesday 17-05-2016 - 16:41
This is a guest blog by Chloe Alexander, Policy and Campaigns Officer (Young Carers and Young Adult Carers) at Carers Trust.
At Carers Trust my role is to get campaigns started about the issues that affect young adult carers in their education and that have an impact on their mental health. I heard about a new campaign from a group of student carers. Their campaign had a really clear message, that right now UCAS are preventing carers from telling universities about their caring role. UCAS are putting another barrier in the way of young adult carers’ and adult carers’ access to higher education.
The problem is that the UCAS application form does not have a tick box for carers to identify themselves. For Carers Trust, an organisation that has engaged with thousands of young adult carers and encouraged them to get their voices heard, this is something that stands out from those conversations as a frustrating barrier to higher education. It would be so easy to fix!
Young adult carers and student carers say that putting this tick box question on the UCAS form is a missed opportunity. It would make it so much easier for them to tell the university about being a carer. The change to the form would signal that universities wanted to know and have something to offer those students in particular. At the moment many young adult carers take away the message that no one asked so no one cares and that there is no support available to help them anyway. This puts them off talking to people whose job it is to support them at university. It delays their access to the support that could help them during their studies. Right now half of young adult carers report that they are struggling with their studies because of their caring role. Without the right information and support they are four times more likely to drop out of university.
A really positive change in the higher education sector has been that more universities are responding to campaigns, including the Going Higher campaign from Carers Trust. Campaigners have explained what support would make a difference and have worked with universities to get it set up. Student unions and student carer reps have made sure that student carers are being listened to.
So universities across the UK are increasingly offering support to student carers. Universities want to find out as early as possible when a student has a caring role so they can support them. Universities have told us that they struggle to find out which students have caring responsibilities and that a UCAS tick box would make all the difference.
UCAS need to catch up and show that they recognise their obligation to identify and support student carers.
To make that message loud and clear we need your support for the campaign. Please add your name to the petition and get other students involved too. Together we can make sure there are fewer barriers for young adult carers and student carers.
Sign the petition in English: http://bit.ly/1V5TRjD
Sign the petition in Welsh: http://bit.ly/1NqwD5Z
Read more about the Going Higher campaign in England and in Scotland. See a video about how Carers Trust Wales is campaigning for better support for Welsh student carers.