Carers Trust Scotland and College Development Network (CDN) have joined forces to help improve support to over 12,000 student carers in Scotland, who are studying alongside providing unpaid care for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.

Supporting Student Carers at College is a new innovative free digital training module which has been developed by Carers Trust Scotland and CDN from funding received by The Scottish Funding Council. The module will help college practitioners to better understand the challenges faced by many student carers and provides guidance on how to improve support for these students at college.

Research by Carers Trust found that student carers are four times more likely to drop out of college and university than those who are not carers. Together, Carers Trust Scotland and CDN are calling on all college practitioners working in Scotland’s colleges to use this free resource. Engaging with the digital training module will help college staff to better identify, support and report on their student carers.

This new resource compliments existing work being undertaken by both organisations to raise awareness, improve identification and ensure adequate support is in place to give student carers a fair chance to be successful in their own education. Last year Carers Trust Scotland launched Going Further for Student Carers Recognition Award, a scheme to assist and encourage all 27 of Scotland’s colleges to develop their policies and practices to improve support for student carers, and award good practice.

While the number of student carer enrolments at college across Scotland has increased from 3,413 in 2013-14 to 11,965 in 2018-19, many student carers continue to be unidentified and unsupported, and continue to be a hidden group. There are student carers in every college trying to successfully complete their course to the best of their ability just like their peers. Yet, they often experience additional challenges because of their unpaid caring responsibilities and do not always receive the support they need to successfully complete college; therefore, stopping students with caring responsibilities from reaching their full potential, maintaining good health and wellbeing, and having equal access to the opportunities open to other students. Additionally, due to the impact of the current Coronavirus pandemic, we know that many student carers are taking on additional caring responsibilities, therefore increasing the need for support at college.

Student carers can greatly benefit from dedicated support from their college and the Supporting Student Carers at College digital training module should help improve outcomes for student carers to reach positive destinations after study.

Scott Lafferty, Development Manager for Carers Trust Scotland, said:

“Carers Trust Scotland is delighted to have worked with College Development Network to launch Supporting Student Carers at College, a digital training module for college professionals. It aims to raise awareness to the challenges that many student carers face and offers guidance on how colleges in Scotland can provide improved support to the over 10,0000 student carers in Scotland, so that they have a fair chance to be successful in their own education and achieve their true potential in all aspects of their lives.”

Andree Carruthers, Access and Inclusion Consultant for CDN, said:

“The Supporting Carers module is the first of its kind in the UK. We know that there are over 12,000 declared student carers studying in our colleges, and that they are four times more likely to withdraw from their course. College offers carers a break from caring and new opportunities for the future, and we owe it to them to support them to make the most of their time at college. This new resource, developed in partnership with Carers Trust Scotland, offers colleges a flexible and engaging professional development tool. The module is brought to life by the voices of the carers that courageously and selflessly shared their experiences and the challenges of combining their caring duties and studying.”