Driving Change in Higher Education


28 11 2023

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Young adult carers are young people, aged 16-24, who provide unpaid care to a family member on a regular basis. Evidence shows that caring responsibilities can have a significant impact upon young people’s outcomes in education and employment and affect their long-term life chances.

L&W estimate that young adult carers provide over £3.5 billion of unpaid care per year. Despite this, on average they achieve 9 lower GCSE grades than their peers, they are five times more likely to drop out of college, and they are 38% less likely to achieve a degree qualification. However, these outcomes are not inevitable.  

Young adult carers deserve to go as far as their talent and hard work will take them, yet our work and wider research shows that they often don’t feel supported to go to university. We want to break down barriers to HE and ensure that young adult carers have the same opportunities to go to university, and achieve their potential, as other young people. 

Between 2019 and 2022, our Driving Change in Further Education (FE) project, in partnership with Carers Federation (CF), worked with 39 colleges and college groups to improve and embed their support for young adult carers using the Quality Standard in Carer Support (QSCS) Framework.  As a result of the project, participating colleges now have: 

  • Measures in place to identify young adult carers; 
  • Better awareness and increased staff confidence in supporting young adult carers; 
  • A range of practical support available; 
  • Named college leads and support staff; 
  • Peer support groups for young people with caring responsibilities.  

In addition, colleges achieving the QSCS Award now have external recognition of their commitment to supporting young adult carers.  

Supporting young adult carers in Higher Education (HE) 

Building on the success of Driving Change in FE, and the learning from a successful pilot with three universities, our new project has adapted the Driving Change model for the HE context and aims to: 

  • Support successful access and transition to HE for young adult carers and; 
  • Improve the support they receive in HE, ensuring that they have a positive experience of university and the same opportunity as their peers to fulfil their potential and achieve better outcomes. 

Starting from March 2024, the three-year project will work with 25 universities across England, to help them to develop and embed an organisational approach to working with young adult carers. This offer will be free of charge.

Do you represent a higher education institution in England?

We're inviting universities to register their interest in taking part.

What will it involve? 

The project will offer one-to-one support tailored for each university for between 12 -18 months, including: 

  • An online initial assessment meeting to review the university’s current support for young adult carers at the university  
  • Advice and support to develop a university action plan to address identified areas for improvement across the eight criteria of the QSCS framework (specifically adapted for HE)  
  • Monthly catch-up meetings with key staff to monitor progress, discuss any challenges in implementing plans and share good practice. 
  • Access to two online courses. 
  • An online pre-assessment preparation meeting to help the university get ready for the QSCS Final Assessment, and a final online assessment meeting to review how the university’s support has progressed and developed over the course of the project.  
  • A final assessment report and QSCS accreditation for 3 years  

In addition, the project will offer: 

  • Support to establish an internal project working group across the university, with one person leading and others supporting the work  
  • Training for key staff to understand what it means to be a young adult carer, how caring responsibilities affect young people and what effective support looks like 
  • Networking opportunities to connect with other universities and agencies supporting young adult carers in the local area 
  • Wider sharing of good practice between universities through a series of themed webinars 

Universities will be required to identify and secure commitment from a member of the senior management team to participate in and fulfil the requirements of the project, including taking part in a light touch evaluation to explore the difference that the project makes for young adult carers and universities. 

Find out more about Driving Change in Further Education

YAC infographic 2023

Get in touch

If you would like any further information about the project, get in touch with project manager, Jackie Woodhouse.