Studying when you have caring responsibilities
How to balance study and personal growth when you're a primary carer
Having caring responsibilities doesn't mean that uni is out of reach for you. It's never too late to start.
We offer plenty of support, guidance and flexibility, so you can succeed in your studies while providing care for someone.
Who is considered a carer?
A carer is anyone who cares, paid or unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction cannot cope without their support (Care's Trust, 2017).
According to the 2011 census, there are over 6.5 million carers in the UK and around 375,000 of them are young carers between 16 and 25 years old.
It can be short-term, like supporting someone's recovery after an injury or accident. Or long-term like supporting a person with a disability, illness or other ongoing condition.
Please note, this doesn't include a parent caring for their child unless they have a learning difference, mental health condition or physical disability.
Study and Carer's Allowance
A government-recognised carer is a person who cares for someone for at least 35 hours a week and is eligible for or receives Carer's Allowance or Carer's Credit.
If you're receiving Carer's Allowance you can only study up to 21 hours a week including classes, lectures, tutorials, seminars and the independent study expected by the university. If you study more than this it may impact your eligibility for Carer's Allowance.
Benefits of studying as a carer
Studying while caring for someone can be a really rewarding opportunity.
When you study as a carer you'll:
- Develop new skills and knowledge, and meet new people
- Work towards a qualification that could prepare you for a career or work in another field
- Improve your abilities as a carer and grow as a person in your own right
- Start with a fresh focus on new topics
- Begin planning your future, post-care
Support available to you
It's up to you when – and if – you tell us about your caring responsibilities. Whenever you feel comfortable you can talk to us about your situation, and we can start offering you the support you need.
Balancing your budget while studying can be tricky for most students. Studying when you have caring responsibilities means you may have a few more things to juggle than others.
We can give you financial guidance and support to help you manage your money. Our Student Finance Centre can give you guidance on loans and bursaries like the Young Carer's Bursary, support with funding applications and government benefits as well as help with your personal personal money management.
Young Carers Bursary – £500 a year
You could get this bursary of £500 a year if all the following apply:
- you’re a full-time undergraduate UK student aged under 25
- you have caring responsibilities for a parent or family member (but not a dependent child)
- your family income is less than £25,000 a year
You won't be able to get this bursary alongside the Care Leavers Bursary or the Stand Alone Bursary, but you can also receive the University Bursary.
If you're caring you might run on a different timetable or study load so you can still meet your caring responsibilities.
If you choose to tell you your lecturers or personal tutor that you're a carer, they can offer you more flexibility so you can stay on top of everything such as directed you to resources online if you have to miss a class, or negotiating deadlines on your assessments. They can also signpost you to dedicated services to make sure you're supported in the best way possible.
At Portsmouth, our learning support tutors can help with your coursework, managing your workload and other study skills that will be helpful.
Managing your caring responsibilities and coursework might mean you have less time to catch up with friends, chill out or exercise. But keeping happy and healthy is important to staying on top of everything.
When you start uni you'll be paired up with a personal tutor who can offer guidance and support every step of the way. You can also access other health and wellbeing support such as 1-to-1 sessions with counsellors and workshops to help you manage your emotions.
Sometimes you might look to charity and non-profit organisations for some help.
That support might look like speaking with someone about challenges you face, help organising alternative care or group social activities for carers. Helpful organisations you can contact include:
- Carer's Trust – all kinds of support for unpaid carers
- Hope Support Services – dedicated support for young carers aged 11–25
- Carers UK – a nationwide charity and campaign group that offers support and assistance for all carers
Studying as a carer
If you're caring for someone, you may not be able to study full-time. If you're receiving Carer's Allowance or Carer's Credit then you'll need to meet your care obligations while you study and you might want to consider studying a course part-time or online by distance learning.
Making the most of your studies
When it comes to studying while caring, there are a few things you can do to keep organised:
- Schedule your study time around your caring responsibilities so you've got a clear idea of what you can do when
- Don't put your work off – it'll just stack up and give you less time later
- Know that chipping away at each piece of work is fine, you won't always have huge blocks of time available
- Establishing routines around your caring will help you swing from care to study and back easier as time goes on
- Remind yourself that no two days are the same – don't beat yourself up if you don't get everything done
- Making friends in class is a great way to learn together and meet new people
- Do your best to eat well and get a bit of exercise when you can to stay healthy
- Whether it's from family, friends or uni support staff, don't be afraid to ask for help
Applying as a carer
It's your choice whether you want to tell us about your caring responsibilities when you apply – but if you do it can help us make sure we've got all the support in place you need to kick start your studies. You could tell us about your caring responsibilities in your personal statement, or give us a call after you apply.
You can highlight how being a carer has helped you develop valuable skills and how being a carer makes you a great fit for your course, which will help us better understand your story and your potential to succeed.
Things to consider before applying
If you're thinking about studying there are a few important things to consider:
- Will you need to organise alternative care for some classes? Do you know who might be able to? Or would you need to contact a local trust?
- Will your budget change if you decide to start studying? What impact will this have?
- Will you need to travel for class? How will you get there?
- Will you be travelling to uni? If so, how will you get there? What will this mean for your caring responsibilities?
Getting support as a student with caring responsibilities
We'll only use this information to give you the support you need – it won't affect how we assess your university application.