Young adult carers should be classed as a vulnerable group so they qualify for extra funding, the Learning and Work Institute has said.
Being classed as a 'vulnerable group' would entitle them to extra funding through the 16-19 Bursary which replaced the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in 2011.
Unlike EMA, it is paid directly to the educational establishment rather than the learner and is worth up to £1,200 a year. The learning provider decides how it is spent, but it can be used to pay for travel, books or given as cash.
Another step would be to exempt them from the so-called 21-hour rule which means a carer cannot study on a course exceeding 21 hours per week and still claim Carers Allowance of £62.70 per week.
'16-19 bursary is so important'
Speaking at the institute’s Positive Transitions event on Tuesday, which looked at how to support young adult carers, the organisation’s head of learning for young people Nicola Aylward, also called for increased flexibility in apprenticeships.
"Financial pressure often forces young adult carers to drop out of learning – to make the choice between claiming the financial support they and their families need, or studying. These changes would make a real difference and give young adult carers and give them access to vital opportunities that they often miss out on," she said.
Laura Archer, wellbeing manager at Nottingham College, said it could make a big difference to learners, adding: "Colleges can offer lots of support. But the initial challenge is getting young adult carers to feel they can afford to go to college. This is why the 16-19 bursary is so important."
Petition to government
Lucy Prentice, who has been a carer since she was 11, said she had to drop out of her college course after losing her allowance because her course ran for 22 hours a week.
She has now started a petition calling on the government to exempt young carers from the rule, which she said prevented people like her “reaching their full potential”.
Another young adult carer, Arthur Leighton, said one issues he faced was the transition of carers support he was receiving as a child, to adult services. "They move you on just when you get used to people. If you have these connections and have to move on you it makes you feel like just another number," he said.
Also speaking at the event, the Learning and Work Institute’s patron HRH The Princess Royal said she found it amazing young adult carers were so determined to carry carried on with their despite all the other pressures they faced.
“We can help young carers finish education, college and enter the workplace and give them confidence in that,” she added.