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Going Higher and Further for Student Carers

A student carer’s testimony on the difficulties student carers can face in their studies, and the award initiative underway to better understand the barriers they face.

When I attended my interview to begin study at college, I was fully prepared and hopeful of gaining a place like anyone else. 

During my interview I was asked what skills I could bring to a care course. I answered by using my experience of caring for someone with a mental and physical illness.

After chatting about my skills I went on to explain what my caring role meant, in particular that if an emergency came about I may have to leave. At which point the woman interviewing me asked “should you really be doing a course at college instead of claiming benefits?” 

This shocked me, however I quickly responded by explaining that I was eager to learn and that it would not be likely that I would be absent for lengthy periods of time or that it would affect my studies. However, this interview made me very aware that I would be facing some real barriers during my time at college.

Being a student carer in my experience was hard. I found that I had access to very little support and next to no funding. I was a late acceptance onto the course which meant I did not have the same length of time to apply for my bursary. I did not receive any bursary until November which made finances hard, especially as the person I was caring for was financially reliant on me.
 
I looked into grants that I could potentially access until my bursary came through, but was disappointed to learn that no grants or discretionary funds were available to me. This meant at times my family had to rely on foodbanks. Going Higher and Further for Student Carers

I didn’t let these challenges deter me from continuing on my studies – finding the right balance between studying and my caring role was challenging, but I persevered and did what I could to keep on track with assignments.

Half way through the academic year I received a call to say the person I was caring for took unwell whilst I was in college. My college lecturer wasn’t pleased that I had to leave early but my caring role came first. A few days later she pulled me out of one of my classes to speak to me about leaving early.

I was given the ultimatum of leaving college or to continue on my course at college and give up my caring role. At that point I realised I had no support but I was still determined I would not give up.

I faced the same problem of lack of support more than once but I am pleased to say I persevered and eventually finished my course with a pass.

Experiences like mine are why I feel the Going Higher and Further for Student Carers award and initiative* is an extremely important tool for colleges and universities to access.

It will mean that all student carers regardless of their situation should have the same opportunity to be successful in their studies, without the added worries and stress that I had throughout my college experience.
 
By helping colleges and universities to have a better understanding of carers and the barriers they may face whilst studying, the Going Higher and Further for Student Carers initiative will make real change to improve the lives of current and future student carers in Scotland.

*In 2018, SFC allocated £121,126 in funding to CTS to help universities and colleges better support student carers with the Going Higher and Further for Student Carers’ programme.

Jade Lochhead - 31 Jan 2019