A group of young carers from Lancashire are considering university for the first time, after completing a mentoring course with a leading careers advice programme.
Future U, which works with schools and colleges across Lancashire to encourage more young people to consider higher education, is running a series of mentoring sessions with young carers to encourage them to apply for higher education when they leave school.
Research shows that young carers are twice as likely to end up out of education, employment or training when they leave school, while one in four young carers says that their caring responsibilities have prevented them from going to university.
For Bella, 17, from Fleetwood, university education wasn’t originally on her radar for when she finishes school.
A carer for both her parents, Bella looks after her mum, who lives with epilepsy, while also being the emergency carer for her dad, who has diabetes. As a result of her caring roles, she also looks after her younger brother, meaning the thought of starting university was one she felt she could not entertain.
Instead, she presumed she would have to find a job in order to stay close to her family and continue to support them financially.
After being recommended to the Future U mentoring sessions via the Lancashire Young Carers Service at Barnardo’s, (funded by Lancashire County Council and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group), Bella visited the University of Central Lancashire in the spring to find out about what education support was on offer.
The mentoring course involved talking to the young carers about the process of applying to university, life while studying, exams and coursework, and how student finance works.
For Bella, finding out about the financial support for starting university has opened her eyes.
“I originally only thought you could get a student loan for your tuition fees, but I now know, that the maintenance aspect can be covered as well, while I might also study while staying at home rather than having to move onto campus,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have thought about going to university at all until the sessions with Future U, but knowing what I now know I am planning to apply for a counselling degree once I finish college.”
Bella’s story is one echoed by the other students on the course. For Serena, 15, from Morecambe, her caring duties meant she also thought she wouldn’t be able to attend university, until her opinion was changed.
“The Future U course has made me think that it would be possible for me to attend higher education and to get a degree in what I want to do and perhaps get a higher qualification after I graduate.”
“I previously thought I would only be able to go to college and not attend university but my aim now, after finishing high school, is to go to college and do a public service course as well as doing a course on criminology.
“Once I have finished college, I would like to go on to university and study higher criminology.”
Future U’s mentoring sessions, delivered in partnership with Barnardo’s, help young carers to explore ways to overcome their barriers to education, as well as information on the support available to them in applying for university. The sessions allow the young carers to get equal access to the training and development that will guide them in their employment, education, and personal lives.
Rachel Ibram, from the Lancashire Young Carers Service at Barnardo’s, added: “Many of the young carers we support juggle their caring role alongside their education, amongst many other responsibilities, and feel that there is a lot to consider when deciding on their future.
This mentoring programme has allowed them to explore their options and develop new skills in a safe space. The programme has provided our young carers with the opportunity to ask questions of people who have the right information to support them, meet other young carers facing similar challenges and to make the first step in considering their future in further education.”
Oliver Norris, Outreach Officer at Future U, said: “Caring at a young age is a big responsibility and it’s easy for some young carers to struggle to see how they could live a regular teenage life and go on to study at university and get a degree.
“However, there is plenty of support available for anybody who wants to continue studying and anybody who is keen to find out more can speak to their school teacher or visit our website.”
It is estimated that there are around 800,000 young carers in England, equivalent to six young carers in every secondary school in the country.
Future U works across Lancashire to increase the career and higher education knowledge of young people and encourage teenagers to think about studying at university and their career aspirations.
The project also supports families and young people from areas which are currently underrepresented in higher education, including Fleetwood and Blackpool, Burnley and Blackburn, Morecambe, Preston, Leyland and Chorley, Ormskirk and Skelmersdale, and works with adult learners, children in care, young carers and students from military families.