NUS publishes first ever national research into the experiences of student carers

NUS_logo•Two thirds of student carers worry about meeting costs of basic essentials

•More than half have considered dropping out

•NUS calls for systematic financial support for student carers

Learning with care’- new research published today by the National Union of Students (NUS) reveals the experiences of students who are providing unpaid care whilst studying.

The first ever national research into the experiences of student carers, ‘Learning with care’ further analyses the startling statistics exposed by NUS’ ‘Pound in Your Pocket’ (an 18 month long research programme into student financial support).

The report presents these with the qualitative data it gathered, to expose the lack of support for student carers and the detrimental effect this has on their ability to access education, their educational experience, finances and lifestyle.

Key findings include:

•Student carers had experienced varying degrees of support from their institutions, but in all cases there was a lack of coordinated, systematic support

•More than half of student carers (56 per cent) had seriously considered leaving their course, compared to 39 per cent of students without caring responsibilities

•Student carers who were in receipt of Carer’s Allowance did not feel the benefit was adequate, but the fact that full-time students are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance was considered unfair and contributing to their financial hardship.

•Two thirds of student carers (67 per cent) regularly worry about not having enough money to meet their basic living expenses

•Student carers indicated lower well-being than students without caring responsibilities across all seven indicators in the survey.

•15 per cent of student carers indicated that they had mental health difficulties, and our qualitative research shows that in some cases this can have a serious effect on their studies.

NUS Women’s Officer, Kelley Temple, said she wanted to undertake the research because of the gendered implications of caring. Speaking about the report she said:

“Student carers—the majority of whom are women–are an invisible group in many universities and colleges. Despite the valuable service they provide to society, their support needs are often misunderstood or ignored by their education providers.

“Universities and colleges, as well as the Government, should take prompt action to rectify this and ensure that student carers are able to get the education they deserve. No woman should be denied access to education as a result of providing unpaid care.”

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research, Carers Trust said:

“This is an important piece of research and we support its findings. We know that student carers are underrepresented in further and higher education, and that carers who might be considering continuing with their education face considerable barriers. Providing them with the support they need to pursue their studies is vital.”

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“People taking on caring responsibilities between the ages of 18 and 24 are amongst the fastest growing group of carers. A lack of support for young people who care does serious and long-term damage to their education, career prospects, social inclusion and their mental and physical health.

“Social services, the NHS, schools, colleges, universities and community groups have a crucial role to play identifying young carers early, and ensuring their families get the financial and practical support they need.”

The report makes seven recommendations, calling on the Government, the further education and higher education sectors, institutions and students’ unions to improve the experiences and lives of student carers.

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