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Student carers are part of every college and university in Scotland. However, unlike their peers, they have additional challenges due to their caring responsibilities, which can complicate or derail the successful completion of their studies. It’s estimated there are 788,000 people in Scotland voluntarily caring for a relative, friend or neighbour. This figure includes 44,000 people under the age of 18.

Many live on low incomes and 42% juggle study, work, and caring. Carers Trust Scotland (CTS) research reveals 50% of the days young adult carers spend at college or university are affected by their caring role, including arriving late, leaving early, or missing an entire day of study or classes. Students with unpaid caring responsibilities are four times more likely to drop out of college or university than their peers who are not carers.

To help address this issue, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) allocated £121,126 in funding to CTS in 2018, towards its work to help universities and colleges better support student carers with ‘The Going Higher and Further for Student Carers’ programme.

This CTS-led initiative has been designed to help all Scottish universities and colleges to identify, evaluate, and improve their support to young and student carers and to ultimately participate in a Scotland-wide quality recognition award scheme.

The programme has already proven popular with Aberdeen, Glasgow Caledonian, University of Highlands and Islands Inverness campus, and Strathclyde universities already receiving a ‘Going Higher for Student Carers: Recognition Award’, and Abertay, Queen Margaret and St Andrews working towards submitting evidence to CTS of changes they’ve made.

For young adult carers such as Keith Burns, who is studying at Strathclyde University, having dedicated support is “vital”.

“It makes us feel more welcome in our institutions as we feel that staff understand us, which means that we can then focus on realising our fullest potential as students.”

Louise Morgan, CTS Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “We’re delighted the programme has secured SFC funding as we expand to work with all Scottish colleges and universities. The programme and training resources will allow colleges and universities to have a better understanding of carers and the barriers they may face whilst studying, and make real change to improve the lives of current and future student carers in Scotland.”

“Raising awareness of carers and all that they do is a good step forward towards helping carers to receive the support they need to have a life outside of caring.”

SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said: “It is fantastic to see so many institutions already stepping up to improve the experience of student carers on their campuses. We’re very proud to be funding this work to help widen access to further and higher education, in support of the Carers (Scotland) Act, and the Scottish Government’s priority to improve the health and wellbeing of carers in Scotland.”

Today is Young Carers Awareness Day 2019 – CTS’ annual initiative to raise awareness of young people who look after family members with illness, disabilities or substance misuse issues. Find out how you can support young carers.

Read more: Jade Lochhead describes what it’s like to be a student carer and how it affected her studies.