Student Carer Guide
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What is a student carer?
A student carer is anyone who is studying, whether be it at school, college or university, that also has caring responsibilities for a friend, relative or partner. The person who they are caring for could be ill, frail, disabled or have mental health or substance abuse problems. Many students may not realise that they are carers as they do not see themselves as one.
Sometimes they might only be caring for a short amount of time, for instance, caring for someone after an accident, or there could be an ongoing long-term care need for someone who has a disability. If you are unsure if you come within the bracket of a student carer, you can refer to The Carers Trust, which supports carers of any kind and can provide you with more information on how to get support. It is important to note that a student carer can be a person of any age who is studying, the caring responsibilities also do not necessarily mean that the person being supported shares the same housing as you and the assistance can vary significantly.
Roles and responsibilities of a carer
The roles and responsibilities of a carer will look different for everyone and will depend on the needs of the person being cared for as well as what the carer can offer to the best of their ability. Responsibilities might not be obvious to others but may include managing daily tasks such as cooking, grocery or general shopping, cleaning and housework, buying medications or organising prescriptions, managing bills and finances, providing physical care or helping a person with communication.
Carers might look after close family members, such as providing support for their younger or older siblings, their parents, their children (there is also additional support for student parents) or their grandparents. The care duties are all most likely in addition to providing moral and emotional support to the person in need. This can be challenging in terms of maintaining healthy relationships with the people they care for, especially if they are family members, as there may be feeling that their role has changed from being a family member to being a carer.
Challenges a carer may face
Caring duties can be vast and consume a student, who may well be already facing extra work and stress from education and learning. This can take a toll on a student carer and they might fall behind with their studies, have a lack of time for themselves, not make social connections or feel tired and drained due to the burden of upholding their duty of caring and managing others.
Not only is caring for another person a heavy responsibility, but it is also demanding and time-consuming, which can be particularly stressful and can harm young carer’s mental health and wellbeing. For a student, being a carer can have a large impact on their social life and academic studies, so it is important that a carer knows that they can reach out for extra support and help when required.
A student carer might feel as if it is their sole duty to carry out the care for a close person in need and they may take on too much for one person to carry alone and become overloaded with things to do under considerable time pressure. They may not consider themselves eligible for support as their caring support has become the “norm” for them and they may have pressures internally within the family system to uphold their care duties, postponing their personal goals and aspirations. The challenges faced might not seem obvious at all times but can slowly become heavier as academic work progresses or at times when their care duties may be particularly time-consuming.
Signs that a carer may need help
There may be some obvious signs that a carer needs support and they may even reach out for help but in other cases, signs may be less obvious. Some common signs that a carer is struggling is behaviour that reflects fatigue, burnout or distractibility. During studies, these may be noticeable through the student having difficulties with focusing and completing assignments. There may be more errors and deadlines missed or there may be an avoidance of studies for fear of failing. Students may become easily frustrated or angry, which can reflect both tiredness and the emotional impact of having to manage multiple tasks. It is understandable that without context, there may be some people who jump to conclusions or call the student “lazy” or “unmotivated” when in fact they can be trying their absolute best.
A student carer might become agitated and angry over academic work and argue with professors or friends. They might also be late for lectures and classes or feel anxious and stressed about completing extra work at home. Other signs might include fatigue, forgetfulness, bad concentration and the appearance of being antisocial, by not attending social events due to their caring duties.
It is important to identify student carers so that they can be understood and supported to achieve their studies whilst taking on what carer role they deem necessary. The educational institute should be aware of the challenges such students face and should try to minimise any assumptions and conclusions that they jump to without trying to support and understand the situation for the student in the first instance. The student carer may feel embarrassed or unable to speak up about what they are going through, so the provision of a safe, containing space for them to feel listened to and unjudged is crucial.
Charities that can help
CarersUK – https://www.carersuk.org/
- Raising money via a virtual Virgin Money London Marathon.
- Fairer for Carers campaign to the government for additional financial support
The HoneyPot Children’s Charity – https://www.honeypot.org.uk/
- UK charity providing a consistent level of support for young carers in the 5-12 age range
- Opportunities to fundraise through baking, quizzing, yoga…
Carers Trust – https://carers.org/
- Additional support for ALL unpaid carers
- Offers grants, breaks, support, assessment support plan
- Support for mental health
- Local carer support service
Carers week – https://www.carersweek.org/
- Annual campaign raising awareness for carers
- Support and information
Age UK – https://www.ageuk.org.uk/
- Advice helpline
- Befriending services, day centres
- Exercise and physical activity
- Handyman Services / IT training
Macmillan Cancer Support – https://www.macmillan.org.uk/
- Support for people with cancer
- Emotional health and wellbeing club
- Access to tools
Marie Curie- https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/
- Great Daffodil appeal
- End of life care
MS Society – https://www.mssociety.org.uk/
- Trying to find a cure for MS
- Financial help
- Local support
Parkinson’s UK – https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/
- Improving life for people with Parkinson’s
- Local resources, network groups and conferences
Stroke Association – https://www.stroke.org.uk/
- Supporting people to rebuild lives after a stroke
- Fundraising – make May purple, resolution run, give a hand and bake
Alzheimer’s Society – https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/
- Alzheimer’s Society is the UK’s leading dementia charity. They campaign for change, fund research to find a cure and support people living with dementia today
- Dementia-friendly communities, training, consultancy
Youth Access – https://www.youthaccess.org.uk/
- Advice and counselling website for young people
- Advice on rights, equality and projects that you can join in on
Adult dependants grant (Government funding)- https://www.gov.uk/adult-dependants-grant
This is for full-time undergraduate students in higher education and postgraduate students doing a full-time initial teaching training course. It is a grant that does not need to be paid back and is on top of your student loan. You can receive this grant if an adult depends on you financially. This is what you can receive:
- £3,094 for 2020 to 2021 academic year
- £3,190 for 2021 to 2022 academic year
You must apply for the Adult Dependants’ Grant within nine months of the start of the academic year. However, it is not possible to get an Adult Dependants’ Grant if you are getting a Postgraduate Loan.
Carers Allowance (government funding) – https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance
This is a government funding allowance for carers that care for someone at least 35 hours a week. You can receive up to £67.25 a week and you do not need to be related, or live with the person you care for. However, you do not get paid extra if there is more than one person to care for and you can only claim one allowance.
SAAS (students award agency Scotland) – Dependants’ grant – Scotland only- https://www.saas.gov.uk/guides/living-costs-grants
SAAS is a government funding award body for carers In Scotland. Living cost grants are given out for carers in Scotland. If the person you care for is financially dependent on you, you could also receive financial support from something known as a ‘Dependants’ grant.’ The maximum grant paid per year is £2,640. You can still receive this amount even if you are working and earning an income whilst studying. The amount given is dependent on the estimate of the income of the person you care for. You do not need to pay the grant back, the Dependants’ grant is on top of the normal support grant given, including package fees, loans and bursary.