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Student carers

SFC recognises student carers as a group ‘at risk’ of not achieving their full potential, from aspirations through to successful outcomes and employment.

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Who are student carers?

We use the Carers Trust definition:

A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

This Act extends and enhances the rights of carers. The legislation helps ensure better and more consistent support for both adult carers and young carers so that they can continue to care, if they so wish, in better health and to have a life alongside caring.

The Act is designed to support carers’ health and wellbeing and help make caring more sustainable. Education and training for carers is one of the areas that are included under part 6 of the Act.

As of August 2018, there are an estimated 788,000 people in Scotland who are caring for a relative, friend or neighbour. This includes 44,000 who are under the age of 18.

Why do student carers require additional support?

Carers face a difficult time at college and university as their caring responsibilities have an impact on their studies and employment opportunities which can additional stress and pressure.

Research by Carers Trust Scotland into the experience of students balancing their studies with their care responsibilities in further and higher education has found that student carers are four times more likely to discontinue their studies that the national average. Also that courses requiring off-site learning or work placements may present difficulties around their care responsibilities.

In addition, they sometimes feel isolated and many feel they have to sacrifice the social aspects of higher education to study and care. It is not, therefore, surprising that mental health and wellbeing is a key issue for carers: 45% of young adult carers report a mental health problem – almost double the national average.

SFC support to student carers

We are working with the Scottish Government to support carers to continue with their education in school, college, or in university and to make sure they do not lose out due to the demands of their caring role.

We are funding Carers Trust Scotland to help our colleges and universities to enhance their carer support policies, to offer free support and training to senior management and staff so to raise awareness of the barriers faced by young and student carers, and to be recognised as a carer-friendly institution and employer.

SFC is fully supportive of Carer Aware at University which is a free online course for all staff at Scotland's universities.

We want our colleges to achieve Going Further for Student Carers and our universities to achieve the Going Higher for Student Carers recognition award.

To find out more about how Scotland’s colleges and universities are implementing support for Student Carers please see Carers Trust Scotland.

We require institutions to have a published Student Carers Policy, and recommend they have a signed Student Carer Statement of Intent. We would like student carers to have the same level of support as care-experienced students as per their corporate parenting responsibilities. This would include a named point of contact for advice and support from the point of entry through to graduation, a dedicated web page outlining the support available and how to access it, and including carers in their widening participation and outreach work. We would support Scottish HEIs to include carers in their contextualised admissions policy.

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