Do you care? Should you care? Yes you should care?
The NUS Women’s Campaign has voted for the priority campaign this year to be on student carers and we will be working with the NUS Welfare Zone on this issue .
The Fair to Care campaign is about putting a specific group of predominantly women students and the injustice they face in trying to access education on the agenda, and making the education sector sit up and take notice of a group of students who have been consistently overlooked.
Student carers in this instance does not, as often mistakenly thought to be, simply mean student parents but refers to those students who provide unpaid and crucial care for someone who is their parent, friend, relative neighbour or a disabled child.
These students are considered separately from student parents in terms of funding as while student parents receive specific funding, student carers lose any right to financial support when they become a full time student.
The NUS Women's Campaign believes that student carers should be supported to access and stay in education.
We know that women continue to shoulder the majority of caring and responsibilities and that the nature of caring is still inherently a gendered one.
We also know that at the moment if you are a student and a carer then you have no entitlement to any carer’s support financially if you are in receipt of student support, i.e. bursary, student loan etc. In addition, these students are not able to top up their limited income with part-time work since many will have very little spare time to do much but study and their caring duties.
Due to the lack of support, being a student carer can have a negative impact on the student experience and leave students feeling isolated. Many carers give up an income, future employment prospects, and pension rights to become a carer.
As a result, student carers are at high risk of not entering education and if they do, dropping out of their course.
The Women's Campaign believes that student carers should be entitled to both regular student support, in the form of loans/bursaries, and specific funding to recognise the additional financial needs of student carers.
Government cuts are only going to increase the number of students with caring responsibilities. This is because care provision provided by local authorities is being shut down and the government’s tender to private company ATOS who receive higher profits for deciding that more disabled people are ‘not disabled enough’ to qualify for financial support from the government.
This means that disabled people will become more dependent on informal unpaid care from relatives and friends, some of whom will have to leave their course or not go into education as a result.
We believe that this group of students who are overwhelmingly women (nearly 70%) deserve to be provided with the right support both financially to give them independence and to balance competing priorities and supported emotionally and personally by colleges and universities.
One of the first steps colleges and universities need to take is identifying these students as this information is not collected by many institutions in the UK.
NUS is supporting the private members bill on carers by Barbara Keeley MP and Carers UK which is going through Parliament and has its second reading today.
You can read the Bill here: (on page 3)
If the bill gets passed it would place a duty on HE and FE institutions to take steps to identify student carers, which would be great progress in starting to gather data and start to in fill the gap of information on student carers’ experiences.
The NUS Women’s Campaign will be conducting the first ever specific research on the experiences of student carers on campuses across the UK, if you want to be involved in our focus groups and finding out what more you can do on your campus email Kelley Temple NUS Women’s Officer at email@example.com.
It’s definitely not fair for student carers in further and higher education today, so let’s change it and make it fair to care!