A college's journey: Improving support for young adult carers

Young adult carers provide £3.5 billion of unpaid care per year and are three times as likely to be not in education, employment or training as other young people. Our work focusses on young adult carers’ right to participate in learning and have access to good quality services and stable and high-quality employment. Our Driving Change in Further Education project with Carers Federation and the National Lottery Community Fund offers colleges free one-to-one advice and tailored consultancy to help them provide better support to their young adult carers.


21 03 2022


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By Siobhan Benton, Student Experience and Pastoral Lead at Derby College

Being a part of the Driving Change project as a college has been a great experience. We started the project in April 2021 and since then have made a number of impactful changes and shifted organisational culture.

From initial meetings with the Carers Federation we were able to start to work towards an action plan and 8 key assessment targets. These targets were set by the Carers Federation and helped structure our actions. They covered the following areas:

  1. Policy and strategic commitment – for this we amended our Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging policy and ensured Young Carers were identified as a vulnerable group. Guidance is now clear to all staff members with clear roles and responsibilities across the organisation.
  2. Designated staff member – two members of staff undertook training from the Carers Federation and are identifiable across campuses. We have made methods of referring and support for young carers available through the college intranet.
  3. Staff training – as part of mandatory inset days, CPD training has been made available to all staff and we ensure staff are aware of signs to look for and their responsibilities when it comes to young carers.
  4. Outreach and aspirations – this has given college the opportunity to review our promotional material giving students, parents and carers the chance to see the support available before they join us at college.
  5. Induction – with guidance from Carers Federation, we have developed our student induction to involve and inform young carers. The carers champions are identified and we provide information about how to disclose you are a young carer and where to find support.
  6. Ongoing support – we have implemented many changes to continue the support for our young carers, including updating our website, establishing a dedicated space on our student SharePoint as well as posters across sites clearly outlining all of the ongoing support.
    We have also made identification cards available to young adult carers. These are used when students need to leave class or are late due to caring responsibilities, with the aim of providing students with the ability to continue their caring responsibilities whilst at college and not feel pressured to explain their responsibilities repeatedly.
    A pattern of care form is completed with the student and young carers champion. The form enables the students to tell college who they care for, how they care for this person, how this might impact their attendance and motivation in college and finally what we can do to help them. From this the carers champion can put reasonable adjustments in place, including amending timetables, offering flexible working or requesting additional equipment.
  7. Partnership working – We have formed links with local carers services and developed our relationships with a range of external organisations.
  8. Data collection and monitoring – we use reporting at the college to look at attendance and retention of students, enabling us to identify young carers as a key demographic to focus on and monitor whether our support is enabling young carers to stay at the college and flourish.

The roadmap was easy to follow and with the support of the Carers Federation we were able to plan and implement changes across all Derby College campuses.

Attending the webinars organised by Learning and Work Institute were a great help, giving us the opportunity to ask questions, meet others that are going through the assessment and share best practice. The Driving Change project has been the motivating factor to push a cross-college culture change and, since taking part, we have made impactful changes across college. We are continuing to make strides to improving young adult carers’ experiences and see achieving the Quality Standard in Carer Support qualification as the start of an ongoing learning journey.

Recognising young adult carers as a group of people who have additional responsibilities and so may need additional support has enabled us to make the right changes. Leading up to our final assessment, we spoke with young adult carers who talked about how our support helped them to move forward in education.

The advice from the Carers Federation to give students the opportunity to share their stories and experiences is something we have implemented across all sites. This has given the students the opportunity to use their voices and has encouraged students to have open and honest conversations and build trusting relationships with their tutors. As a college we listened to the students as much as possible, took their feedback on board and used this to drive forward the support they expressed that they needed. Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

One of the greatest achievements following the project is the culture change across college. Although this has been a big task, it has made a massive impact on our students. From team managers to pastoral support, the college now recognises young adult carers as a demographic that need extra support throughout their journey with us. We continue to drive forward the aims and outcomes of the Driving Change project following our final assessment and hope to continue to see the impacts the changes are having.

Find out more about Driving Change for young adult carers