Despite saving the country billions of pounds, young people who provide unpaid care for friends and family are often left struggling at college and university without the support they need.

Research by Carers Trust and The University of Nottingham reveals that young adult carers often struggle at college and university because of their caring role. Issues with lateness or absence when balancing their caring responsibilities alongside their studies, mean that over half of them experience difficulties and as many as 16% feel they may have to drop out (more than twice the national dropout rate) - jeopardising their future opportunities.

Combined with these pressures many, young adult carers also experience poor physical and mental health. Some 39% rated their physical health as either ‘Just OK’ or ‘Poor’ and 45% reported having mental health problems (nearly twice the national average of 25% in the UK), clearly indicating that young adult carers need to be identified early and supported.

Many young adult carers remain unnoticed. Although over three quarters of the young adult carers had explained their caring role to their college or university, nearly half (45%) still said there was no one there that helped them. Previous research by Carers Trust and Nottingham University** has shown that of those who have been to college or university, 29% of young carers have dropped out because of their caring role - four times the national average. Almost half who had left full time education were unemployed.

Carers Trust is calling on universities, colleges and the government to recognise the needs of young adult carers at college and university, identify them early and prioritise them for support.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, said: “Young adult carers, who do so much for other people, should be able get the best possible education, but caring responsibilities are having a negative impact on the education of half of the carers in this sample. Student carers need the flexibility and support to ensure they can succeed and fulfil their potential”

Kelley Temple, NUS women’s officer, said: “NUS welcomes this report and its recommendation that colleges and universities should do more to make support and services available to young adult carers and ensure they are identified early.

"Student carers - the majority of whom are women - are an invisible group in many universities and colleges. Despite the valuable service they provide to society, their support needs are often misunderstood or ignored by their education providers.

"Universities and colleges, as well as the Government need to ensure that student carers are able to get the education they deserve. No woman should be denied access to education as a result of providing unpaid care."

The research was part of a wider study of young carers and young adult carers aged 14-25 undertaken as part of Carers Trust’s ‘About Time’ Programme, funded by The Co-operative Group, who made Carers Trust their charity of the year for 2013.

Professor Saul Becker,Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor at The University of Nottingham, said: “The care and support that young adult carers require needs to be coordinated and should involve academic services, student health and welfare services, local student unions and others.

“Student health and welfare services should be proactive in ensuring that young adult carers at college and university receive suitable services and support to enable them to achieve and make the best of their education and opportunities.”

Read the full research.