A carer is anyone who is responsible for providing unpaid care to a family member or friend who could not cope without their support.

This content is provided in partnership with Carers Trust.

Who is a carer?

A carer is anyone who gives unpaid care to a family member, partner or friend who could not cope without their support. This may be due to a long-term illness, disability, a mental health condition, or an addiction.

A caring responsibility may be short term — such as supporting someone with their recovery following an accident, or long term — such as helping someone with a long-term illness.

Caring responsibilities might include physical care (e.g. helping someone out of bed), personal care​ (e.g. helping someone wash), emotional support, ​collecting prescriptions and helping to give medicine​, and providing emergency care. For young adult carers, this might also involve practical household tasks (e.g. cooking and cleaning), managing the family budget, and looking after siblings.

There are many different types of caring responsibilities – and many different types of carer. Here are some examples:

  • A 17 year old supporting his mother who has depression and anxiety.
  • A19 year old supporting her partner with an alcohol problem.
  • A 24 year old caring for his father who has heart problems and mobility issues.
  • A 42 year old looking after their autistic child.

Some students with caring responsibilities might think it's not worth telling the university or college about their circumstances, perhaps because they think it's a temporary situation, or because they don’t think it ‘counts’. However, all carers deal with their responsibilities alongside their education differently, and may still find some occasional support helpful, especially if their circumstances change.

Pre-application and research phase

  • Identify students who have caring responsibilities (the pastoral team in your school or college may be able to help with this).
  • Be mindful that that not all carers will be known to the school or college, and some may think their caring doesn't ‘count’. Many young carers don’t fully understand their rights – this guide from Carers Trust will help.
  • Flag that support is available in HE and signpost students to information and advice on ucas.com
  • Check whether the student’s caring role prevents them from participating in opportunities such as open days or outreach activities. Encourage them to contact university widening participation teams to see if they can help remove any of these barriers.
  • Check whether work placements or off-site learning might cause a problem, and encourage them to discuss how they can manage any conflicting responsibilities with the university or college before they apply. 
  • Encourage the student to contact the local authority or their local carer service to check what support is available – this can include information and guidance, a transitions assessment, and individual or group support. Some services have links with widening participation and outreach teams at universities – find local carers services on the Carers Trust website
  • Students managing conflicting priorities can find there is an impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Make sure they know how to access support at university, and encourage anyone with an existing condition to share this on their UCAS application – check our toolkit for supporting students with mental health conditions
  • Encourage aspirational choices and don’t be afraid to challenge any assumptions the student may have made about higher education or whether particular universities or courses are an option for them.
  • Some young carers feel they can’t move from home. However, the local authority has a responsibility for those who need care, and carers have a right in law to receive support that allows them to meet their own personal goals, including education. 

When they’re applying

  • Encourage students to share their circumstances in the ‘More about you’ section of the application. Make sure they know this information is treated sensitively and used to connect them to support – read more about sharing this information on the FAQs page.
  • Once the student has made their choices, help them to explore if those universities and colleges include young adult carers within pre-admissions support (e.g. extenuating circumstances schemes, fair access schemes, contextualised offers). Find out more on contextual admissions.
  • Use the reference to highlight any circumstances which may have affected a student’s attainment or performance.  
  • Advise students to use the personal statement to highlight skills gained as a result of their caring role (e.g. independence, determination, juggling priorities) – this UCAS personal statement guide was developed by students to help carers write their personal statements.  


  • Check the student has the information they need about applying for student finance (including Disabled Students' Allowance) – be aware that some young adult carers will manage the family finances and may need some extra support.
  • Help students find and apply for any bursaries or grants, either from the university or college or through charitable organisations, and start this process as early as possible.
  • If a student is planning to study part-time, they may be eligible for the Carer’s Allowance (except Scotland). Students in Scotland may be eligible for the Carers Support Payment
  • Prompt students to think about planning respite and additional care, as there may be logistic and financial implications they need help managing. 
  • Encourage the student to contact the local carer service where they are planning to study, so they find the right support.

During Confirmation and Clearing

  • If students don’t achieve their grades, check the university or college is aware of any mitigating circumstances.  
  • If students are going through Clearing, remind them to mention their caring responsibilities and to check that the university or college can support them. 

Preparing for the transition to university or college

  • Remind students to contact the university or college to discuss their academic support needs (e.g. anxieties about workload) and practical support (e.g. on-site parking).  
  • Make sure students have started thinking about budgeting – more information and advice on ucas.com. They may also be able to access advice through their local carers service
  • Get students thinking about how they will move to university or college and buy the equipment they need (e.g. bedding, kitchen equipment), if they're moving. 
  • Check they know who to contact at the university or college if they have any questions when they arrive – some universities have a dedicated contact for carers.  
  • Read the Charlie Waller student guide for young carers making the transition to university.