“No young adult carer should miss out on learning because they care for their families. We are writing to call on you to exempt young adult carers from the 21 hour rule.”

To mark Carers Rights Day, L&W and Carers Trust are launching an open letter calling on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to exempt young adult carers from the 21 hour rule in the benefit system which means they cannot claim Carer's Allowance if they study for more than 21 hours per week.


23 11 2023

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Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to call on you to exempt young adult carers from the 21 hour rule in the benefit system (also known as the full time education rule), which means that they cannot claim Carer’s Allowance if they study for more than 21 hours per week.

Young adult carers are young people aged 16-24 who provide unpaid care to someone, usually a family member, on a regular basis. The 2021 Census identified 272,731 young adult carers aged 16-24 in England and Wales, the equivalent of around 1 in 21 young people. Of these, around 37,000 young people provide over 50 hours of care each week. It’s estimated that these young people provide over £3.5bn of unpaid care per year.

Young adult carers often give up their childhoods to care for others. Yet, through no fault of their own, they consistently miss out on opportunities in learning and work:

  • Young adult carers have significantly lower educational attainment at GCSE, the equivalent to nine grades lower overall than their peers.
  • 24% of young adult carers in school say they cannot afford to go to college or university.
  • Young adult carers are three times as likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) compared to other young people.
  • Young adult carers are 4 times more likely to drop out of college and university than a student without caring responsibilities.
  • Young adult carers are 38% less likely to gain a degree qualification than non-carers. This inequality is magnified for young people who provide high levels of care, with those who care for 35+ hours per week 86% less likely to gain a degree.

Current benefit rules mean young adult carers cannot claim Carer’s Allowance if they study for more than 21 hours per week. This limits their ability to study the Government’s ‘gold standard’ qualifications like A levels and T levels, limiting their choices compared to other young people. In turn, that risks limiting their chances to progress to higher education and their long-term career prospects.

On this basis, we are calling on you to exempt young adult carers from the 21 hour rule in the benefit system (also known as the full time education rule), which means that they cannot claim Carer’s Allowance if they study for more than 21 hours per week.

No young adult carer should miss out on learning because they care for their families. This simple policy change would make a significant difference in opening up ‘gold standard’ opportunities, such as T-levels and A-levels, for young adult carers who have missed out on so much. The Scottish Government has recently announced that this change will be implemented from 2024. Urgent action should be taken to ensure that young adult carers in England and Wales are not left behind.

Our calculations show that the cost of providing Carer’s Allowance to all eligible young adult carers aged 16-24 in further education (up to and including level 3) is estimated at £54m per year. To extend this to all young adult carers, studying at any level, the cost is estimated at £85m per year.

At the very least, 16-18 year olds should be exempt from the rule, as this would enable young adult carers to study the ‘gold standard’ T-levels and A-levels. For young adult carers aged 16-18 the cost is estimated at £31m per year.

Implementing this simple policy change would have long-lasting educational and economic benefits for young adult carers and the country. It will enable more young people with caring responsibilities to study, to complete their courses and to gain qualifications such as T levels, improving their employment prospects and earnings as a result.

Together, the undersigned, are committed to ensuring that young adult carers get the opportunities they need and deserve.

Please contact Nicola.aylward@learningandwork.org.uk to discuss this proposed policy change.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive Officer, Carers Trust

Melanie Wilkinson, Action for Carers Oxfordshire

Jennifer Cooke, Outreach Worker, Action for Carers Oxfordshire

Liz Thomas, Carer Adviser, Action for Carers Oxfordshire

Andrew Rawson, Director, Action on Access Information Services

Mark Ellis, Project Manager, Aimhigher London

Kate Young, Director, All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities

Lindsey Smith, Founder, Alta Higher

Anna Morrison, Founder & Director, Amazing Apprenticeships

Emma Thomas, Managing Director, Applied Inspiration

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

Peter Wilson, Chief Executive, Azure Charitable Enterprises

Susan Dowse, Business Owner, Balkwell Motor Company

Lynn Perry MBE, CEO, Barnardo’s

Jacqui Orchard, Chief Executive, Bath and North East Somerset Carers Centre

Majida Burch, Co-Founder, Brennan and Burch

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council

Cllr Anthony Ethapemi, Councillor, Brent Council

Cllr Dr Gwen Grahl, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, Brent Council

Cllr Janice Long, Councillor, Brent Council

Analiese Doctrove, Director, Buttle UK

Helen Jones, Young Carer Support Worker, Caerphilly Borough County Council

Ranjit Kaur, Carer, Caerphilly Borough County Council

Geraldine Powell, Carers Coordinator, Caerphilly Borough County Council

Katie Mitchener, Young Carers Lead, Cantell School

Sarah Roper, Employment Specialist, Cardinal Hume Centre

Elizabeth Freeman, Carer

Margaret Muir, Carer

Ben Rutter, Carer

Craig Backhouse, CEO, Carer Support Furness

Kirsteen Mcveigh, CEO, The Carers Centre Leicestershire and Rutland

Emma Whatson, New Business and Partnership Development Manager, The Carers Federation

Alison Taylor, Chief Executive, Carers First

Alice Dias, CEO, Carers Hub Lambeth

Fiona Macpherson, Manager, Carers Oxfordshire

Michelle Evans, Project Development Manager, Carers Oxfordshire

Moira Collier, Carers Outreach Worker, Carers Oxfordshire

Becci Cox, Outreach Worker, Carers Oxfordshire

Rachael Liddell, Carers Adviser, Carers Oxfordshire

Vicky Steaman, Administrator, Carers Oxfordshire

Elizabeth McPherson, CEO, Carers Plus Yorkshire

Chris Whiley, CEO, Carers’ Resource

Joss Tagg, Young Carers Service Manager, Carers Support Centre

Jill Attwell, CEO, Carers’ Support East Kent

David Wilson, Operations Director, Carers’ Support Service

Claire Dale, CEO, Carers Trust Heart of England

Helen Walker, Chief Executive, Carers UK

Sharon Brooks, Chief Officer, Carers Voice Norfolk and Waveney

Lydia Alty, Primary School Supervisor, Chalfont School

Mark Russell, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society

Joanna Brunt, Chief Executive, City & Hackney Carers Centre

Mark Malcomson CBE, Principal and Chief Executive, City Lit

Clare Miller, Chief Executive, Clarion Housing Group

Leah Fox, Librarian, Coleg Gwent

Ivan Gregory, Assistant Principal Learner Inclusion and Support, Coleg Gwent

Joel Nathan Price, Head of Service for Wellbeing and Safeguarding, Coleg Y Cymoedd

Lauren Samuel, Wellbeing Officer, Coleg Y Cymoedd

Paul O’Shea, Assistant Principal, College of West Anglia

Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive, Commonweal Housing

Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary, Community Trade Union

Jessica Hudson, Project Manager, Crossroads Care Gloucestershire

Jennifer Douglas, Dudley Carers Wellbeing Service Lead, Crossroads Caring for Carers

Vanessa Perkins, Engagement and Capacity Manager, Crossroads Caring for Life

Dame Philippa Russell DBE

Ashley Ryan, Director, Enable Works

Pamela Burke, Chief Executive, Enfield Carers Centre

Hana Gill, Development Manager, Gloucestershire Young Carers

Natalie Aldridge, Data Evaluation and Impact Manager, Go Higher West Yorkshire

John Hague, Area Manager, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Dominic House, Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Jenny Scannell, Project Officer, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Helen Sykes, Head of Go Higher West Yorkshire, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Amy Wilson, Go Higher West Yorkshire Senior Project Manager, Go Higher West Yorkshire

Mark Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Gower College Swansea

Helen Lord, Head of Greater Manchester Higher, Greater Manchester Higher Uni Connect Partnership

Tim Render, Company Director, Harverlea Consulting Ltd

Vicki Spink, Head, HeppSY

Jo Rickword, Workforce Development Manager, Imago (Kent, East Sussex & South London Young Carers)

Rosie Staff, Outreach Programmes Administrator, Imperial College London

John Bangs OBE, Independent Carers Policy Adviser

Louisa Dobson, Programme Manager, Inspiring Choices (Uni Connect)

Jess Ely, Impact Evaluation Assistant, Inspiring Choices

Lydia Macpherson, Outreach Coordinator, Inspiring Choices

Annie Smith, Project Assistant, Inspiring Choices

Jack Evason, Outreach Officer, Inspiring Choices: York and North Yorkshire

Penny Garner, Outreach and Partnerships Manager, Inspiring Choices York and North Yorks Uni Connect

Abi Robertson, WP Partnerships Manager, King’s College London

Paul Rowan, Manager, Knowsley Carers Centre

Janine Eldred, Hon Senior Research Fellow, Learning and Work Institute

Jacqueline Cannon, CEO, The Lewy Body Society

Andee Moorcroft, Wellbeing Officer, Liverpool Hope University

Anne Hutton, Councillor, London Borough of Barnet

Cath Magee, Regional Head of Operations, Making Space

Saul Becker, Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University

Seb Catania, Head of Safeguarding & Pastoral Support, The Manchester College

Brian Dow, Chief Executive, Mental Health UK

Lisa Clarke-Pye, Midwife, Mersey & West Lancs NHS trust

Rose Rees, Head of Engagement and Skills, Midland Metro Alliance

Emma Edmondson, Head of Regional Development, Movement to Work

Luke Bramhall, CEO, Newcastle Carers

Joanna Solanki, Chief Executive Officer, n-compass Towards a Brighter Future Ltd

Jenny Mackay, Principal Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University

Mandy Mellor, Assistant Manager (Safeguarding & Resilience), NPTC Group of Colleges

Geraldine Boyle, Senior Lecturer (Health), The Open University

Dympna Cunnane, CEO, Our Time

Rosanna Mills, Access and Outreach Officer, Study Higher / Oxford Brookes

Judith Moran, Director, Quaker Social Action

Richard Rigby, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, The Prince’s Trust

Hannah Conway, Programme Director, Renaissance Foundation

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness

Darren Young, Young Adult Carer Service Development Worker, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Thomos Humphreys, Young Carers Support Team Leader, Richmond Carers Centre

Andrew Deacon, Young Carers and Young Carers in Transitions Lead, Sefton Carers Centre

Laura Pietrzyk, Siblings and Young Carers Project Coordinator, Sense

Stefania Crick, Sheffield Hallam University

Serena Noble, Student Success and Engagement Coordinator, Sheffield Hallam University

Laura Cole, Participation & Development Manager, Sheffield Young Carers

Sara Gowen, CEO, Sheffield Young Carers

Suzanne Littler, Safeguarding, Mental Health & Wellbeing Officer, SK College Group

Julie Maitland, Counsellor, Solihull Sixth Form College

Dan John Bates, Maintenance Gardener, Swallow Charity

Hannah Pack, Access and Outreach Officer, Somerville College, University of Oxford

Dominic Atkinson, CEO, Stay Nimble

Eleni Foskett, Young Carer Outreach Officer, St Helens Young Carers Centre

Amy Gower, Access and Outreach Officer, Study Higher

Jess Hill, Access and Outreach Officer, Study Higher

Jess Searle, Project Manager, Suffolk Family Carers

Anne Phillips, Team Lead / Education Project Worker for Young Adult Carers, Swansea Carers Centre

Karen Dewick, Subject Librarian, Swansea University

Michelle Grogan, Chief Executive, Trafford Carers Centre

Jacqui Finn, Deputy CEO, TuVida

Lauren Gillett, Senior Access Officer, UCL

Anne McMunn, Professor of Social Epidemiology, UCL

Ruth Thomas, Guidance Officer and Lifepilot Engagement Lead, University of Bath

Lois Boyle, Outreach Officer, University of Birmingham

Rachel Bailey, EDI Facilitator, University of Cambridge

Rachel Nield, Student Success Officer, University of Hertfordshire

Verity Bedford-Read, Pathways to Law Coordinator, University of Leeds

Teresa Storey, Educational Engagement Lead Officer, University of Leeds

Sarah Hanson, Scholarships Officer, University of Liverpool

Tim Dobson, Head of Access and Participation, University of Northampton

Katrina Down, Aspire Higher Co-ordinator, University of Northampton

Suzanne Oliver, Heritage Projects and Partnerships Officer, University of Northampton

Christine Webster, Aspire Higher Coordinator (Schools Engagement Team), University of Northampton

Emma Szembek, Deputy Director of Student Recruitment (Widening Participation and Outreach), University of Nottingham

Claire O’Neill, Head of Southern Universities Network, University of Southampton

Cherryl Jones, Widening Access and Lifecycle Manager, University of Warwick

Matt Beswick, Access and Outreach Manager, University of York

Chloé Carbis, Access and Outreach Officer, University of York

Richard Hall, Access & Outreach Manager, University of York

Asha Lunniss, Graduate Coordinator, University of York

Carrie Megaw, Access and Outreach Manager, University of York

Hollie Metcalf, Access and Outreach Marketing Officer, University of York

Leah Nicholson, The Place Centre Officer, University of York

Jodie Price, Graduate Coordinator, University of York

Nitya Ramanand, Access and Outreach Officer, University of York

Alex Tucker, Access & Outreach Graduate Coordinator, University of York

Laura Whitelock, Access and Outreach Officer, University of York

Eglionna Treanor, CEO, Wandsworth Carers’ Centre

Katy Styles, Founder, We Care Campaign

Andy Hood, Head of Carers Services, Westbank Community Health and Care

Alan Burrows, Manager/Co-ordinator Young Adult Cares services, YMCA Sutton Coldfield

Sharron Smith, CEO, York Carers Centre

Katie Bladon, Young Adult Carer

Karina Eccles, Charity Manager, Young Carers Development Trust

Melanie Rees-Lewis, Service Manager, Young Carers Development Trust

Helen Leadbitter MBE, Director, Young Carers Initiative

Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO, Youth Employment UK

Sunita Abraham

Emma Baines

Lisa Barton

Guy Bedford-Read

Vanessa Conman

Vicky Cotterill

Chris Crook

Charlotte Crossley

Sheryl Cruickshank

Anna Davey

Gemma Edwards

Janet Fairclough

Mair Francis

Ben Fudge

Brittany Gav

Christine Gay

Melanie Gray

Seren Hill

Isabelle Kelly

Elsie Linley

Fiona MacCallum

Ellie Millington

Siobhân Oakey

Rashpal Panesar-Gipson

Ceri Phillips

Emily Proctor

Anne Reardon-James

Kellie Riordan

Paul Riordan

Bill Robb

Charlotte Robey-Turner

Paul Sharp

Briani Simpson

Rachel Spacey

Lilian Spencer

Sarah Thomas

Cathy Wardle

Mark Webb

Susan Webb

Lauren Williams

Laura Wilson

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