From carers to care-experienced: how you can support
‘My Mum and Dad are my rock’ are words that may resonate with you as an adult. But for some young people, they are the parent.
Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, ran between 5-11 June. Caring can be – but is not always – the precursor to ending up in care. It could be caring for a single parent with an illness who passes away, or caring for a parent whose substance abuse problem worsens. In both cases, the young person might have to be removed from the family home.
It can be hard for young people to change from a caring mentality into someone who is being cared for. Below are six ways that you as a care professional can help current or past carers to succeed in Higher Education (HE), which form the acronym ‘carers’.
Consider what independence looks like
Get up, make breakfast, run for the bus, pick up groceries, oh and be self-motivated to do homework. Caring for someone requires doing everything on their own so help your young person to consider what independence can look like. Yes, they should get to their 9am lecture on time but they do not have to deal with every single problem alone. Let them know where they can access support, such as wellbeing, student support, and careers.
Achievements are to be celebrated
It can be hard for young carers to celebrate achievements when parental illness means that school reports are unread, parent evenings are missed, and Results Day is eclipsed by family problems. Even if your young person is no longer caring for someone, this mentality can remain. Help them to celebrate their achievements, however big or small, to ensure they succeed.
Realise money is not a taboo subject
Money can be a taboo subject, especially for those who have/had caring responsibilities. Young people with caring responsibilities can hide that there’s not enough money for groceries, don’t mention school trips, or that they’re growing out of clothes/shoes. Many HE providers offer a Hardship Fund, which student support can provide information about. You can help by having conversations about money and making your young person aware that financial support may be available.
Ensure your young person gets professional help
It might be easy to think the past is the past, but it can stay with you. Counselling can help your young person get the professional help they need. It’s good to talk with others, such as Nightline, which is a listening service that provides emotional support and information to students.
Rest and breaks are not a luxury
Studying while in a doctor’s waiting room, checking emails in a queue, and writing a shopping list during lunch break is the reality for many young carers. But it is not a good thing. Breaks are not a luxury so help your young person to engage in self-care. This could be something as simple as having a cup of tea, going for a walk, or reading for pleasure.
Share the workload
Carers are used to doing everything themselves, but HE is a great place to share the workload with others. Whether it’s a chores rota, sharing notes or textbooks, or teaching each other life hacks, it’s about sharing knowledge.
We hope this got you thinking about the links between carers and being care experienced. Find out more about the support offered to young carers in Go Higher West Yorkshire’s (GHWY) 13 member institutions
Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer