Improving support for young adult carers in further education: the Driving Change project

By Abigail Lagou


17 11 2021


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The Driving Change project aims to improve support for young adult carers in further education. We have been running it since 2019 in partnership with the Carers Federation, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.

As part of the second year of Driving Change, we are delighted to celebrate the recent successes of 12 colleges across the UK, who have achieved their Quality Standard in Carer Support (QSCS) accreditation.

The QSCS is awarded to colleges who demonstrate good practice in supporting young adult carers. It’s designed to help raise awareness of the challenges that young adult carers face, remove some of the barriers, develop appropriate policies and procedures, and improve access to support.

College in Northern Ireland
I think it’s been a very worthwhile project. I’m definitely glad that we’re involved in it and I’m definitely glad that it’s raised awareness, and that we can do something more to recognise student carers...

Who are young adult carers?

Young adult carers are young people aged 16-24 who provide unpaid care to someone, usually a family member, on a regular basis. They may care for someone who has a disability, long-term illness, mental health problem, or other condition which results in a need for care, support, or supervision.

Why should we improve the support for young adult carers in further education?

Young adult carers are three times as likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) as other young people, and five times more likely to drop out of college. Young adult carers often have competing priorities and lots of commitments to manage, so their education is often affected by absence, lateness, and missed deadlines. Young adult carers also report low levels of mental health and wellbeing, which can impact on their progress in education.

The Driving Change project

Through the Driving Change project, we work with colleges to increase the support for young adult carers and remove any barriers to participation. By understanding the needs of young adult carers and putting effective support in place, Driving Change helps young adult carers to benefit from learning and fulfil their potential.

College in England
Before the project] that knowledge and understanding of young adult carers wasn’t really there. Going through this project we now understand who they are [and] what they go through...

In year one of the project, 17 colleges across England and Wales took part in Driving Change and improved their support for young adult carers. Since extending the project to Scotland and Northern Ireland in year two, a further 17 colleges have participated. Of these, 12 colleges have recently achieved their QSCS accreditation, and the remainder will be going through the assessment process later in the year.

Our evaluation of the second year of Driving Change highlights the outcomes and benefits of the project for colleges and young adult carers. One of the main benefits is that young adult carers are receiving stronger and more tailored support, for example, colleges have introduced or improved flexible adjustments and one-to-one pastoral support. This means that young adult carers are in a better position to remain and succeed in further education.

Young adult carer
[The support has] been really helpful, just to kind of make me feel like I’m not alone in navigating everything. Every step of the way they’ve been able to offer support and check in...

Colleges have also been able to identify young adult carers within their student population more effectively. For one college, the creation of a young adult carer Student Ambassador post helped to improve the visibility of young adult carers at the college, encouraging other students to declare caring responsibilities and access the support they need.

Throughout the project, colleges have been able to develop relationships and networks with local carers services and other colleges taking part in the project. Colleges have found this extremely useful and their improved partnership working with local carers services has led to more effective and joined up support for young adult carers.

College in Northern Ireland
Beforehand, there wasn’t support set up in place for young adult carers, and now, there is so much support. So, it’s making a difference to children's lives and that's what our jobs are and that's what we're here to do...

A huge well done to all the colleges who have taken part in Driving Change so far! We look forward to continuing to improve the support for young adult carers in year three of the project.

Find out more about the project here or get in touch with us directly by emailing Jackie Woodhouse.

By Abigail Lagou, researcher at Learning and Work Institute