A South Wales college has received a national award in recognition of its outstanding work supporting young carers.
Coleg y Cymoedd has been awarded the Carers Federation ‘Quality Standard in Carer Support’ (QSCS) accreditation which recognises organisations that have gone the extra mile to support carers.
The achievement is the latest in a string of accolades received by the college for its work with young carers, adding to the bronze and silver Young Carers College awards it received from Rhondda Cynon Taf Young Carers’ Service earlier this year.
Developed by carers for carers, the QSCS accreditation looks to reward organisations that are not only helping to raise awareness of the issues faced by carers, but also actively working towards removing these barriers by developing appropriate policies to help them improve their access to support.
Coleg y Cymoedd received the award thanks to its pro-active work identifying and supporting learners at college who have caring duties. The college has introduced a number of measures to help ease the pressures on them including making adjustments to courses and promoting flexible working to accommodate their needs and allow for any required time off to conduct care responsibilities. The college also offers financial support to young carers, contributing towards transport costs as well as providing free meals.
The Carers Federation also commended Coleg y Cymoedd for its efforts in providing extra guidance to these learners and offering them a listening ear when they need one. Each learner receives a tailored individual support plan and staff are on hand to support their mental health and wellbeing.
The college has implemented these changes as part of the Carers Federation ‘Driving Change Programme’ which aims to improve the support that young adult carers receive in further education, ensuring that systems are in place to enable them to succeed in their studies.
Laura Wilson, Welfare and Wellbeing Officer and Carers Champion at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “It can be extremely challenging for young and adult carers to juggle the responsibilities of being a carer with their studies. The practical and emotional implications of a caring role can be stressful and demanding meaning many carers end up neglecting their own needs.
“The result is that carers all too often struggle with their mental health and are likely to disengage with their education or employment as it all becomes too much.”
Research shows that young carers are three times more likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET) compared to other young people, and five times more likely to drop out of college due to the difficulties they experience balancing their carer duties and education.
Alisha Morgan, 20, a learner and young carer at the college who was involved in developing the project, said: “I am really thankful for the support I receive at college. My tutors support and encourage me with my learning and understand when I am tired and feel like giving up. I am able to have a flexible timetable, financial help and a dedicated Carers’ Champion who is there to talk to whenever I need it.
“Obtaining the QSCS accreditation has been really beneficial in raising awareness of young carers at the college. It recognises the work that Coleg y Cymoedd has done to amplify the voice of young carers and in helping us achieve our qualifications.”
The Carers Federation believes that by understanding the needs of young carers and putting better support and provisions in place, their experiences of education can be improved, resulting in increased retention, attendance and achievement rates.
Laura added: “It is important to us that all learners at the college are supported to fulfil their potential. It can be difficult for learners who have caring roles to complete their college studies alongside their caring responsibilities, but we firmly believe that this should not hold them back from being able to complete their qualifications.
“My goal is to make education accessible for all young carers and to work with the college to ensure that support mechanisms are in place to help these learners thrive in education and achieve success.”
Coleg y Cymoedd worked closely with the Carers Federation to improve its best practice for young adult carers and achieve the accreditation. The Carers Federation reviewed the college’s existing policies and provided a tailored support package with recommended goals, collaborating with staff to achieve these.