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Young carers and parental substance or alcohol misuse – examples of good practice

Area of Care: 
Alcohol MisuseSubstance Misuse
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHospitalsCarers servicesSocial careEducation
I work with: 
Young carers
Caring for: 
AdultsOlder adults
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:15
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Examples of good practice

Out of hours family support for young carers living with a substance misusing adult

The PDF iconout of hours family project aims to provide a range of emotional and practical support to families in order to improve outcomes for young carers, the substance misusing adults they care for and the wider family.

Support for young people affected by a parent’s drug or alcohol misuse

Time4Us identifies and supports young people with a parent who is misusing drugs or alcohol. The project also supports the wider family by providing information and support to parents to access other available services.

Supporting families affected by drug and alcohol misuses

PDF iconExplore Family in Nottingham delivers both low threshold and structured interventions for anyone affected by the drug or alcohol misuse of someone else in their family. The service works with children within the family (some of whom will be young carers), any non-misusing parent and the misusing parent when appropriate.

Further information

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Association of Directors of Children’s Services produced Signposts, See Me, Hear Me, Talk to Me – Talk to My Family as Well in 2011.

The Office of The Children's Commissioner for England produced the report Silent Voices – Supporting children and young people affected by parental alcohol misuse in 2012.

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PDF icon Explore Family in NottinghamPDF icon Out of hours family project
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Guidance

Young carers and parental substance or alcohol misuse

Children of parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may experience chaotic lives which lack routine and may often worry about the safety of their parent.
Area of Care: 
Alcohol MisuseSubstance Misuse
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health carePrimary careHospitalsCarers servicesSocial careEducation
I work with: 
Young carersFamilies
Caring for: 
AdultsOlder adults
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:15
Body: 

The statistics 

  • 22% of young people under 16 in the UK (2.6 million) live with a hazardous drinker.
  • In the UK, 335,000 children live with a drug dependent parent.

How does parental substance or alcohol misuse affect young carers?

Not all young people who live in families where there is drug or alcohol misuse have a caring role or experience difficulties at home. Those who do may undertake physical tasks, such as domestic chores, dealing with bills, or nursing a parent suffering from drug or alcohol withdrawal, but it is often emotional support that is most prevalent in their caring role.

Children of parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may also experience very chaotic lives which lack routine and may often worry about the safety of their parent and fear what, or who they will find on returning home from school or college. Young carers from these families may have had to deal with the aftermath of alcohol and substance misuse in their home.

Parents affected by substance misuse may experience impaired patterns of parental care. This in turn may lead to a higher risk of physical neglect or abuse, poor or limited diet, and missed health appointments, such as the dentist or vaccinations.

Research in 2004 found that where children are caring for a relative with drug or alcohol problems, the incidence of missed school and educational difficulties were considerably higher than for other young carers. 34% were missing school (compared to 27% of young carers) and 40% in total were missing school or had other indicators of educational difficulties (source: Dearden C. & Becker S. (2004) - Young Carers in the UK: the 2004 report - Carers UK and The Children’s Society).

Emotions and thoughts

Young carers who care for a parent affected by substance or alcohol misuse may experience a whole range of differing emotions and thoughts: They may become angry, confused and ashamed or even feel guilty. They may feel like their parent loves drugs and/or drink more than them and they may get teased or bullied because of a family member’s addiction. They may feel very isolated and feel unable to invite friends home.

Support

Fear of stigmatisation and fear of intervention by services can act as barriers to identification and young carers receiving support. Services and support must recognise these particular issues faced by these young people and gain the trust of families and young people in order to encourage openness and engagement.

Like many young carers, this group of young carers need someone to talk to and for their needs to be understood. It helps when they realise that there are other young people in similar circumstances. They also need to understand that they are not responsible for their parents’ choices and that it is not their fault. Early intervention is key.

Dual diagnosis

Some parents may be affected by both substance or alcohol misuse and have a mental health condition. It is, therefore, important to maintain effective links between all agencies involved to provide extra support should they need it.

Further information

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Good Practice

Whole family approach - practice examples

The Department for Education funded Carers Trust between 2010 and 2012 to build a collection of practice examples to support those who commission or develop services think about how to deliver creative and effective services locally.
Area of Care: 
Mental HealthAlcohol MisuseSubstance Misuse
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health careCarers servicesSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Families
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:15
Body: 

Whole family support

The Department for Education funded Carers Trust between 2010 and 2012 to build a collection of practice examples to support those who commission or develop services think about how to deliver creative and effective services locally.

Examples of whole family working

  • Whole family support for at risk families and young carers
    The PDF iconThink Family Project delivers sustained, intensive work with targeted young carers and their families over a period of around 12 months. The work is personalised to each family and addresses the needs of young carers as well as the wider needs of the family through parenting and relationship work, family activities and advocacy.

  • A one-stop holistic service for young carers and their families experiencing multiple challenges 
    Tailored, multi-agency PDF iconsupport to the families of young carers experieincing multiple challenges and who are most at risk of harmful or excessive caring.

  • Using a whole family assessment
    A PDF iconwhole family assessment is initially carried out in order to embed a whole family approach to supporting families. The results of this assessment then inform an intervention plan that is developed and agreed upon by the family.

  • Coordinated meetings to help families write their own care plans
    Barnardo’s in Bolton coordinates meetings Family Group Conferences which aim to bring together everyone who is involved with a young carer, enabling the family to decide what support they need and to make plans that reduce the young person’s caring role.

  • Out of hours support family work
    The Out of Hours project aims to provide a holistic package of support for young carers and their families at times that suit them, which may be outside the existing 9–5 service. Young carers and their families are offered one-to-one support, signposting, advocacy and fun activities for the whole family.

  • Support programme for parents of young carers
    The Triple P System is an evidence-based parenting programme founded on over 30 years of clinical and empirical research. Winchester and District Young Carers uses the model to work with the parents of young carers in order to create improvements in their family lives.

  • Whole family involvement in young carer crisis plans
    Using a child-friendly booklet designed with and for young carers, called "Safe, Sorted and Supported," the PDF iconproject encourages young carers and their families to plan ahead in case of crisis or emergencies.

Mental health problems or addiction

Below are some examples of targeted whole family approaches for families where mental health problems or addiction is present.

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Key Info

Whole family approaches

Young carers exist because someone in their family network requires their support. Caring for a family member or friend can be a positive experience for a young person which can strengthen family relationships and build a young person’s life skills and maturity.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingCarer awarenessIdentifying carers
I work in: 
Health careCarers servicesSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Families
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 10:15
Body: 

Why is whole family working important?

Young carers exist because someone in their family network requires their support. Caring for a family member or friend can be a positive experience for a young person which can strengthen family relationships and build a young person’s life skills and maturity. However, children must not be relied on to take on inappropriate or excessive caring roles that impact on their health, wellbeing, development or life opportunities.

Many young carers are providing caring roles that negatively impact on their own lives. Whole family working is essential to identify young carers early, address the root causes of why any child is undertaking a caring role and ensure the family have the right support in place.

What is whole family working for young carers?

Whole family working involves understanding and addressing the needs of the family as a whole.

This means:

  • considering the impact of an individual’s additional needs on the rest of their family
  • Addressing a child’s needs within the context of their family, instead of in isolation.

Evidence in practice highlights the particular benefits of supporting a young carer in the context of their family. By addressing the reasons why a young person is caring and providing support to the person who needs care and support and the wider family, the role and well-being of the young carer can be significantly changed.

In England, The Care Act 2014 enshrines in law the importance of a whole family approach as an effective way to understand and address the needs of an individual in the context of their family. See what the Care Act Says about whole family approaches and young carers in England.

What constitutes a ‘whole family approach’?

There are a number of different components that make a ‘whole family approach’ including:

  • whole family assessments   
  • support for adults and other family members within the family, such as parenting support; provision of practical and emotional support
  • building support networks including engaging the wider family through for example, family group conferences
  • relationship building within the family, such as support with building roles, routines and responsibilities and engaging families in positive activities (such as planning a menu, cooking together or a family picnic).

Get tips on how to start whole family working with our Whole Family Practice examples

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Young carers and their education

Young carers are a particularly vulnerable group of pupils, specifically mentioned in Ofsted’s evaluation inspection schedule.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingIntegrationHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carersCarers in employment
I work in: 
Health careCarers servicesSocial careEducation
I work with: 
Young adult carersYoung carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:30
Body: 

Young carers’ experiences in education

Young carers are a particularly vulnerable group of pupils, specifically mentioned in Ofsted’s evaluation inspection schedule.  Often, these children are caring for relatives without their teachers’ knowledge, yet if unidentified and unsupported, their caring roles can seriously affect their future wellbeing, life chances and levels of aspiration. 

Research shows that:

  • Around one in 20 young carers miss school because of their caring responsibilities, affecting not just their education but their chances of longer term employment.
  • They have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE level, the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers (i.e. the difference between nine B’s and nine C’s).
  • They are more likely than the national average not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) between the ages of 16 and 19, which reduces their future life chances.
  • Although young carers need extra support, they are no more likely find it from statutory agencies than other children.
  • A quarter of young carers said they were bullied at school because of their caring role. Only half had received additional support from a member of school staff.

Source: 1-4 Hidden from View: the experiences of young carers in England (The Children’s Society 2013) / 5 Young Adult Carers at School: Experiences and Perceptions of Caring and Education (Carers Trust 2013).

Young adult carers at transition

Transitions from school are particularly complex and challenging for young adult carers.  Research shows that:

  • Around 1 in 5 young adult carers become NEET when they leave school.
  • Over half of young adult carers at college or university said they experienced difficulties because of their caring role and 16% were concerned they might have to drop out.
  • Less than half of young adult carers thought they had received good careers advice and only 19% though that it took their caring role into account.
  • Over three quarters of young adult carers at college or university had communicated their caring role to their college or university but nearly half still felt there was no one there who recognised them as a carer and helped them.

Source: 1 Young Adult Carers and Employment (Carers Trust 2014) / 2 & 4 Young Adult Carers at College and University (Carers Trust 2014) / 3 Young Adult Carers at School: Experiences and Perceptions of Caring and Education (Carers Trust 2013). 

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Guidance

How you can support young adult carers in employment

Your workplace could have policy in place that specifically deals with issues that carers could face for example periods of absence or requesting flexible working.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessCarers in employment
I work in: 
Employment
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:30
Body: 

Create a carers policy for your workplace

Your workplace could have policy in place that specifically deals with issues that carers could face for example periods of absence or requesting flexible working.

By creating a policy specifically for carers, you are showing that you support, value and understand the needs of your employees. Macmillan have developed a template Carers Policy that you may find helpful.

Be aware of your duties as an employer under the Equality Act 2010

Under the Equality Act 2010, you must prevent your employees being discriminated against by association with a protected characteristic. Carers are included in this group.

Raise awareness of young adult carers in your workplace

By creating a working environment where young adult carers feel accepted and supported by all members of staff you will be giving them better support and, as a result, they should feel more valued as a member of the team.

Engage with local carers services

Most areas will have a local carers service nearby where young adult carers can access support. You can find them by looking at the carers services map or via your local authorities’ web page or advice line.

Carers services will be able to advise you on the appropriate steps to take to support young adult carers in the workplace.

Carers Services may be interested in working with employers and businesses to raise awareness so see if anyone would be available at your local service. Give them a call to see what they can offer you.

What is being done to support young adult carers in the workplace?

Carers Trust is holding a series of very successful events in partnership with several global companies for young adult carers. The events show young adult carers that they will be accepted in large workplaces whilst showcasing the skills that young adult carers have.

(The event) opened my eyes about the support companies offer carers and jobs available within these companies. I realised my caring role has taught me transferable skills.

(I enjoyed) the tour workshops, feeling of acceptance and understanding respect.  Increasing aspirations and hearing real life stories. Talking to recruitment agency workers about CV’s, It meant a lot to see how being a carer doesn’t have to stop your aspirations or hold you back.  You can be successful.

Carers Trust is managing the Take Action & Support and Time for Change programmes that aim to help young adult carers in taking action to address barriers to their engaging with educational, employment or training aspects of society and support them in doing so.

The programmes will run from June 2014 – December 2016 and will provide young adult carers with a series of activities promoting personal development, wellbeing and new skills to help support their transition to adulthood whilst recognising that they may have additional barriers relating to their caring role.

Employers for carers

This resource is geared towards employers of all adult carers however the information provided is still relevant to supporting young adult carers in your workplace.

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Young adult carers - employment and training

Guidance on some of the challenges young adult carers face in employment, including a young adult carers experiences of employment.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessCarers in employment
I work in: 
Employment
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 16:30
Body: 

What challenges do young adult carers face in employment?

Young adult carers aged 16-18 are twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) as their peers without caring responsibilities due to the additional challenges they face in the workplace and their caring role.

It is likely that you have carers working alongside you in your job although you might not know it. Some signs that your college may be a carer are:

  • being late
  • high levels of absence
  • Fatigue.

Vulnerable to unemployment

Young adult carers are particularly vulnerable to periods of unemployment because of their caring responsibilities which can be misunderstood by employers. This is particularly difficult when a young adult carer is at the outset of their career and has not yet had the opportunity to establish themselves or their capabilities professionally.  

In 2014 Carers Trust published research into the experiences of PDF iconyoung adult carers in employment or training. Young adult carers gain many skills through their caring role for example budgeting, prioritising, increased empathy and deeper understanding of others.

However, young adult cares are struggling to put these skills into practice because of the demands placed on them due to their caring role. On average, the young adult carers that Carers Trust surveyed were absent from work for the equivalent of 17 days per year, and were late or had to leave early on approximately 79 days per year because of their caring responsibilities.

Young adult carers are communicating their situation to their managers but few offer support. 67% of the young adult carers surveyed informed their manager of their caring role but 41% reported that their managers have not been supportive.

Flexible work

Based on these statistics, it is not surprising that young adult carers often choose flexible work that is based close to the person they care for to minimise the potential for disruption to their working lives. Although understandable, the tight criteria on potential jobs leaves them vulnerable to periods of unemployment.

Young adult carers have reported that they do not get clear careers advice that takes the skills gained from their caring role into account. Again, this means that their employment choices are restricted.

Young adult carers experiences of employment

Terry is 20 years old and dreams of opening his own restaurant and becoming a chef. Terry cares for his father and he is determined to make his Dad proud and achieve his goals, even if they do get side-lined at times. He has been caring for his father since he was a small child and was supported by a young carer’s project until he was 18 when he moved to a young adult carer’s project.

Terry has worked a few jobs off and on but has had great difficulty in maintaining stable employment because of his caring role.

He has made his employers aware of his caring role, even going so far as to introduce his managers to his father. His manager said that Terry could take time off if he needed to care for his father.

Terry’s father was suddenly taken to hospital with a life threatening condition so Terry called his employer to tell them that he was unable to come into work. His employer was understanding on the telephone but when he returned to work the next week, Terry found he had half the number of shifts he would normally expect. Eventually Terry had to leave because he could not support himself on the low number of shifts he was offered.

Terry believes that this was because he had to put his caring role first.

Further information

How you can support young adult carers in employment

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Guidance

What you can do to support young adult carers at university

Here are some examples of what you can do to support young adult carers university.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carersCarers in employment
I work in: 
EducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 15:15
Body: 

Identify young adult carers in your institution

By identifying the numbers of young adult carers in your institution you will be able to commission services to meet their needs. Carers Trust recommends adding a field to university forms that specifically asks students if they have caring responsibilities so you can identify at an early stage. By taking this step you will be able to proactively engage and support young adult carers from the moment they start at the institution.

Raise awareness of carers and caring among students

Some young adult carers may not realise that they are in a caring role as caring is ‘something that they have always done’. It is important to raise awareness of caring amongst students and offer support if they come forward to disclose their caring status.

Carers Trust recommends that you publicise who young adult carers are and the services available to support them as much as possible in the university. Even a poster could make a difference to a young adult carers life.

Raise awareness of carers among staff

Ensure that all staff members are aware of what a young adult carer is, the challenges they may face and available solutions. Although more than three quarters of the young adult carers surveyed had explained their caring role to their college or university, nearly half (45%) of them said that despite this there was still no one there that helped them.

Some of the signs that someone may be a young adult carer include:

  • being late for classes
  • handing in homework/ coursework late or incomplete
  • difficulty concentrating
  • high levels of absence
  • drops in grades
  • Low confidence.

If you suspect that a student may be a carer, take some time to talk to them and offer support to work through their issues and achieve the best grades possible whilst at university.

Engage with the local carers services

Most areas will have a local carers service nearby where students can access support. You can find them by looking at the carers services map or via your local authorities’ web page or advice line.

Carers services will be able to advise you on the appropriate steps to take if a student discloses that they are a carer. Carers Services may be interested in working with you.

Downloads: 
PDF icon Young adult carers at college and universityPDF icon Learning with Care NUS research report
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Guidance

Young adult carers at university

Going to university gives young people the chance to become independent, carve out their own identity and get the skills they need to embark on their chosen career.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carersCarers in employment
I work in: 
EducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 15:15
Body: 

Why should universities support young adult carers?

Going to university gives young people the chance to become independent, carve out their own identity and get the skills they need to embark on their chosen career. For young adult carers university is particularly important because it allows them to distance themselves from their caring role.

There are carers in every institution although many are likely to be hidden. Research by Carers Trust has shown that young adult carers are four times more likely to drop out of university than their peers, a shocking statistic that underlines the additional challenges faced by young adult carers at university.

There are many possible reasons for this. Research from Carers Trust revealed that 42% of the young adult carers at university surveyed were in paid employment whilst studying for their degree. This included young adult carers who were providing the highest level of care. This statistic suggests that young adult carers are concerned about finance and may not feel that bursaries are enough to get them through the year.

The pressure that academic study, paid work and caring puts on young adult carers is reflected in the high rates of mental ill health reported to Carers Trust. 45% of those survey reported a mental health problem – almost twice the national average.

The result of this is that, without the right support, young adult carers can struggle to do as well as their peers at university. This can have a negative impact on their life opportunities and the forming of their own identity and independence.

Young adult carers experiences of university

Jessie is 24. She has a degree and is at university studying for a Master’s. She cares for her mother, who has cancer, and for her elderly grandparents. She has been caring since her mother was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

She cares for her family for 50 hours during the week and 20 at weekends as well as working 4-8 hours a week as a waitress and completing her Masters course. Despite this, Jessie has never had a formal carer’s assessment.

Although Jessie is studying and working outside of her home, she feels that she “can’t escape it when there is someone who needs constant care in your home, your house is no longer your own… you can’t just do the things you normally do, you always have to think and act for others first.”

Jessie believes that her physical health is ‘Just OK’ and she feels she has a mental health problem.

What is already being done to support young adult carers

There is growing recognition that young adult carers need better support at university. Two significant pieces of research of carers at university are PDF iconYoung adult carers experiences at college and university published by Carers Trust and PDF iconLearning with Care published by the National Union of Students (NUS). These show examples of good practice and have recommendations on how universities can better support young adult carers.

Currently, there are very few, if any, examples of universities that have policies specifically designed to support young adult carers at university. However, Carers Trust is currently working with a group of universities to produce a toolkit so universities can better support young adult carers. The toolkit will be available in early 2015. Keep checking the website for more details.

Carers Trust in partnership with NUS and The University of Nottingham held an event over two days in June 2014. 200 young adult carers, support workers and decision makers came together to discuss how young adult carers could be better supported to access university.

In 2013, Carers Trust commissioned the University of Nottingham to undertake research to examine the experiences and aspirations of young adult carers with regards to school, further and higher education, and work. A total of 362 people viewed the survey, and responses from 295 young adult carers aged 14–25 were analysed. Read the full PDF iconTime to be Heard report - Young Adult Carers and Employment.

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PDF icon Young adult carers at college and universityPDF icon Learning with Care NUS research report
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Good Practice

What you can do to support young adult carers at college

Here are some examples of what you can do to support young adult carers at college.
Outcomes: 
PreventionWellbeingHealth inequalitiesCarer awarenessIdentifying carersCarers in employment
I work in: 
Carers servicesSocial careEducationCommissioning
I work with: 
Young adult carers
Location: 
Whole UK
Date Revised: 
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 15:15
Body: 

Identify young adult carers in your institution

By identifying the numbers of young adult carers in your institution you will be able to commission services to meet their needs. Carers Trust recommends adding a field to college application forms to identify as early whether the student has a caring role. By taking this step you will be able to proactively engage and support young adult carers from the moment they start at the institution.

Raise awareness of carers and caring among students

Some young adult carers may not realise that they are in a caring role as caring is something that they have always done. It is important to raise awareness of caring amongst students and offer support if they come forward to disclose their caring status.

Carers Trust recommends that you publicise who young adult carers are and the services available to support them as much as possible in the school. Even a poster can make a difference to a young adult carers life.

Raise awareness of carers among staff

Ensure that all staff members are aware of what a young adult carer is, the challenges they may face and available solutions. Research has shown that 75% of respondents informed college or university staff of their caring role but almost half 45% said no one recognised them as a carer and helped them.

Some of the signs that someone may be a young adult carer include:

  • being late for classes
  • handing in homework/ coursework late or incomplete
  • difficulty concentrating
  • high levels of absence
  • drops in grades
  • Low confidence.

If you suspect that a student may be a carer, take some time to talk to them and offer support to work through their issues so they can achieve the best grades possible whilst at college.

Engage with the local carers services

Most areas will have a local carers service nearby where students can access support. You can find them by looking at the carers services map or via your local authorities’ web page or advice line.

Carers services will be able to advise you on the appropriate steps to take if a student discloses that they are a carer.

Carers Services may be interested in working with colleges to raise awareness so see if anyone would be available at your local service. Give them a call to see what they can offer you.

What is already being done to support young adult carers at college

There is growing recognition that young adult carers need better support at college. Two significant pieces of research of carers at university are PDF iconYoung adult carers experiences at college and university published by Carers Trust and PDF iconLearning with Care published by the National Union of Students (NUS). These show examples of good practice and have recommendations on how colleges can better support young adult carers.

Carers Trust is currently working with a group of colleges to produce a toolkit so universities can better support young adult carers. The toolkit will be available in early 2015. Keep checking the website for more details.

Carers Trust in partnership with NUS and The University of Nottingham held an event over two days in June 2014. 200 young adult carers, support workers and decision makers came together to discuss how young adult carers could be better supported to access college.

Downloads: 
PDF icon Young adult carers at college and universityPDF icon Learning with Care NUS research report
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