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Urgent support needed as UCL research shows young carers 38% less likely to get a degree

Carers Trust has warned that young and young adult carers “urgently need more recognition and help” after University College London (UCL) research showed they are 38% less likely than their peers to get a degree.

The research, published in Advances in Life Course Research and supported by Carers Trust, looked at 10 years of data for 27,000 people in the UK aged 16 to 29.

It found that more hours spent caring made it less likely someone would get a degree. As an example, those who cared for 35 hours or more per week were 86% less likely to achieve the qualification.

Carers aged 23 or over were less likely than non-carers to enter employment, and this also depended largely on how many hours a week they spent caring, the research found. People caring for 35 hours or more a week were 46% less likely to enter employment than non-carers.

Having a degree also improved employment prospects. Those caring 10 to 19 hours a week with a degree were just 6% less likely to enter work than non-carers. In contrast, those caring the same amount of time but without a degree were 26% less likely to enter work.

Researchers also found that, compared with those who had no caring responsibilities, young carers were more likely to come from a disadvantaged, lower income household. One in 10 were caring for 35 hours or more a week, a fifth were caring for 20 hours or more a week, and 46% cared for less than five hours a week.

Most were caring for a parent (45%) or grandparent (35%), but 37% said they were caring for someone else, such as a friend or another relative.

Lead author Dr Baowen Xue (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) said:

“Young people who provide care for a family member have often been overlooked in research and policy. But the disruption of providing care comes at a key early life stage, when young carers may be starting at college or university or entering employment for the first time. Our research provides robust new evidence about the consequences that caring has on young people’s work and education prospects.”

The study comes ahead of Carers Week (5 to 11 June) and the launch of an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers on 7 June.

Rohati Chapman, Executive Director for Programmes, Policy & Impact at Carers Trust, said of the UCL report:

"This important research provides hard evidence to show that young adult carers urgently need more recognition and help as they try to balance their education alongside caring responsibilities. It also underlines the importance of our call for a young carers lead at every school, college and university. Our Young Carers Futures programmes are working with educators to better identify and support carers in schools and with employers to support inclusive recruitment practice.

“The first ever parliamentary inquiry focused on young carers will be launched next month by the APPG for Young Carers and Young Adult Carers, examining the impact of caring on young people’s life opportunities, including their access to education and employment. This will be a vital conduit for policy recommendations that could help give young carers the support they so desperately need.”


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