Princess Royal Trust identifies education barriers for carers

Carers are facing “overwhelming” barriers to receiving education and training because of their caring responsibilities, according to a report released today.

An evaluation of the Carers into Education project, set up by the National Extension College in conjunction with the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, found that most carers who wanted to return to education or work were not being given sufficient opportunities to gain qualifications.

The three-year long project helped 290 carers across the Midlands and the east of England to take up long-distance courses on a wide variety of subjects.

Difficulty fitting in courses

Despite using innovative teaching methods, such as group telephone tutorials, nearly half of the participants said they still found it difficult fitting in the course with their commitments at home. However, a clear majority said that their course had met their expectations and many said it had improved their self-esteem.

It was also found that 57% of carers chose recreational courses, such as creative writing skills, as a way of ‘easing’ them back into learning without the pressure of studying for a formal qualification. Nearly 60% viewed their course as a way of eventually getting back into employment.

Call to change carer’s allowance rules

The evaluation called on the government, the Learning and Skills Council and educational providers to help carers back into mainstream education, including by changing rules that prevent people receiving the carer’s allowance from studying full-time.

It also called for increased funding for ‘bite-sized’ starter courses to act as a first step to lead carers back into more formal education.

More flexibility

The NEC’s Dr Mary Edmunds said: “Many carers are precluded from education primarily because they are unable to attend formal courses due to their caring responsibilities or because the cost of such courses is beyond their means.

“The Carers into Education project recognises that although subsidised fees permit many carers to engage in vocational courses or recreational learning, further flexibility must be offered for carers to be able to study at a pace and in a way that will fit with their caring needs.”

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