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Effective learning opportunities for Young Adult Carers

Research conducted by NIACE and others, and widespread anecdotal evidence, suggests that young adult carers are prevented from effectively engaging in learning as a direct result of their caring responsibilities.  The consequences of this are severe, both at an individual level, for society and the economy.

"Effective learning opportunities for Young Adult Carers" is a new policy briefing paper that aims to raise awareness of the needs of young adult carers (aged 16–25) as learners and is part of the  Who Cares?  project , which promotes family-focused learning opportunities for young adult carers.  

 This policy paper will be of interest to members of  the MHFE network  working with families, young people and adults because:

  • About one-third of  all young adult carers care for someone with a serious mental illness;
  • Young carers undertake a variety of tasks for parents with mental health problems, including advocacy, help with correspondence and bills, liaising with professionals, administering medicines, emotional support and domestic tasks;
  • All young people with parents with physical or mental illness will be affected by their parent’s condition even if they are not the ‘primary carer’;
  • Yet parents with mental health problems and their families are one of the groups most likely to be excluded from health and social care provision; and
  • Only a small proportion of young carers receive any support
  • Caring reduces the likelihood of  a young person participating in further or higher education’; and
  • When they move out of compulsory education many young carers feel that they are expected to become full-time carers.

As a result of their caring responsibilities, young  adult carers often:

"... experience a range of serious personal difficulties which include feelings of isolation, tiredness and mental and physical health problems. They have little time for themselves and activities outside the home so their friendships suffer. They appear to be different and for this reason may be bullied by their peers. Young adult carers have reported occasions when they are misunderstood by adults, even tutors and teachers who may label them as truants when they turn up late for college or school or have poor attendance...They have frequent absences, are late for classes, experience tiredness and are unable to complete the work on time. All these factors can result in low self-esteem and behavioural problems resulting in low aspirations and perceived lack of opportunity."

If a young adult carer is to access the same opportunities and achieve the same outcomes as their peers they need seamless support geared to their needs as carers and students.  If colleges, training providers and universities  are to provide the support a young adult carer needs to acghieve and progress they need to develop understanding of the difficulties young adult carers' can experience. 

This briefing paper presents the case for a family-focused approach to learning that (takes account of the circumstances of the young person, the impact their learning may have on other parts of their lives, the person they care for and other family members and  works with the whole family to ensure a solution that works for everyone. Download the policy briefing and other Who cares? project resources free from the NIACE website.