By Seb Catania, Head of Student Support - Nicholls Campus & Fielden Campus, Manchester College
Young adult carers provide £5.5 billion of unpaid care per year and are three times as likely to be not in education, employment or training as other young people. Learning and Work Institute’s work focusses on young adult carers’ right to participate in learning and have access to good quality services and stable and high-quality employment. The 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.
I started leading The Manchester College’s work on improving support for young adult carers in January 2020. It’s been a long but rewarding journey and we can be proud of the support we provide our young adult carers. The Manchester College has around 130 known young adult carers and it’s vital we have the right support in place to ensure they can fulfil their potential as well as providing a safe and fun learning environment.
The Driving Change project, led by Learning and Work Institute and Carers Federation, has been an integral part of our journey, helping us to learn from other institutions and share best practice. During the project, we were part of a fantastic group of educational institutions who were all at different stages of developing their support for young adult carers and who were all keen to learn from each other. I have been able to speak to and take advice from colleges whose young adult carers provision was already developed as well as those colleges who were at the start of their journey.
For example, knowing that other colleges had come across the same barriers we had, e.g. low uptake on our Young Carers Forum, meant we could have an open discussion on how to overcome this problem. Replacing the Forum with regular Young Carers Drop-in sessions meant young carers engaged more readily and uptake increased. After discussions with some of our young adult carers along with members of the Driving Change initiative, we came to realise that Young Adult Carers don’t always want to be grouped together and having drop in sessions would offer a less formalised approach of offering support. young adult carers would be able to come and go as and when they pleased if and when they needed. The change in style created a much more relaxing atmosphere for our young adult carers and encouraged them to get involved when they felt ready.
The changes the college has been able to implement for young adult carers as a result of the support from Driving Change covers a wide range of areas. This has been guided by working towards the Carers Federation Quality Standard in Carer Support (QSCS) accreditation which encouraged us to think about several ways of improving our support.
Firstly, our identification and recording process has been streamlined to allow regular reports to management which look at key indicators like attendance, progression, at risk status and retention of student carers. This means we can identify young adult carers early on in the year and make sure the right support is in place for them to achieve their full potential and we can adapt our support if necessary.
We have also introduced a Young Adult Carer Champion on every campus. Our champions are the face of support for young adult carers on each campus and provide localised support for anyone who needs it. We’re also proud to have started providing extended free breakfast for young adult carers in case caring responsibilities cause them to miss our standard breakfast times.
These changes have increased the overall support we offer to our young adult carer students and have made it possible for us to achieve the QSCS accreditation.
We will continue to focus on developing our website and the information we provide to prospective students as we continue to develop our support package to enable young adult carers to thrive in our college.