UCAS: Help carers attend university

This petition made change with 213 supporters!

Deciding on which university to go to is always stressful, but if you look after someone it can be even harder. Carers are a large, but often unnoticed part of our society, and young adult carers perhaps even more so. UCAS and universities have an obligation to help people, no matter what their background, attend university if they so choose; but if you look after someone there are more barriers to attending university than you might realise.

Caring, or being a carer, means looking after a friend or relative in an unpaid capacity. The type of care you give can vary, from physical, practical or simply emotional support; it's not necessarily long-term or constant, nor do people often realise they are a carer. The person you care for is not necessarily someone who is physically ill, they may have a mental illness, some form of disability or be struggling with substance abuse.

I began caring for my mother, who suffers from cancer, when I was 14 years old. I'd always known I wanted to go to university, and when I was 16 I started researching which universities I wanted to go to; I was shocked and disheartened to find that although UCAS offers support for people who have been in care, and the Student Loans Company offers extra financial support for those who have financial dependants, there is no support mentioned for those who are carers and UCAS makes no effort to identify this group who need their support.

When I arrived at university, aged 19, I assumed there would be some support network in place to help people like me, who had moved a long way from home but could be called back at short notice if my mother's condition worsened - but there was nothing. I now know I am not alone - in fact, 50% of young adult carers in Britain feel unable to attend university because of the lack of support, and 88% of those who do make it to university feel they are not doing as well as they could due to the toll caring takes on them (regardless of whether they are caring full time or just in the holidays).

There is now a group of carers at my university who feel that UCAS can do something to help these disadvantaged people realise their dreams of getting a degree, by simply adding one box on their application form asking applicants if they are, or ever have looked after someone coping with a mental or physical illness, disability or addiction.

Today: Carol is counting on you

Carol Hayward needs your help with “Carers: unrecognised and unsupported. You can help change that!”. Join Carol and 212 supporters today.